Wendy Sherman has defended President Joe Biden’s July executive order on the detention of Americans abroad and the choice of countries for the new ‘D’ notice.
The EO evoked the 1976 National Emergencies Act and empowered the Secretary of State to “publicly or privately designate or identify officials of foreign governments who are involved, directly or indirectly, in wrongful detentions,.”
In an interview with ‘Washington Post live,’ Sherman, a deputy secretary of state, highlighted as an example of the ‘emergency’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s introduction of the ‘D’ notice as a warning to travelling Americans.
Sherman said the notice was applied to a country that was “using the detention, unjust detention of Americans as leverage, economic leverage, geopolitical leverage.” She insisted the Biden administration was committed to “bring Americans home who are wrongfully detained.”
Families of those detained in US allies like Egypt or Saudi Arabia have saidthe US approach – the ‘D’ notice applies to Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela – is based on politics rather than concern for detained Americans. One relative told the Guardian newspaper in June that Blinken was guilty of “hypocritical cherry-picking.”
Sherman, however, said the ‘D’ indicator was attached to “countries that unjustly detain Americans over a period of time or in numbers.”
“It’s not every American who might be jailed, because sometimes Americans do things that are illegal, that are crimes, and it is not an unjust detention,” she explained.“But we look at things like have they gotten a fair trial, a fair judicial process…”
Father and son, Baqer and Siamak Namazi held hostage in Iran for several years
International human rights organizations and UN experts have repeatedly said that Iran engages in systematic unlawful imprisonment of foreigners and dual-nationals as hostages to gain leverage against Western countries. Usually, Tehran demands the release of people convicted for terrorism or other unlawful acts benefitting the Islamic Republic.
Sherman said that her contact with relatives of four Americans detained in Iran had been “brutal meetings,” as it had been with Christine Levinson, the Central Intelligence Agency contractor who disappeared in Kish Island, Iran, in 2007 and who Washington believes is dead.
As Irans' President Ebrahim Raisi is scheduled to arrive in New York soon to attend the United Nations General Assembly, two former hostages in Iran and an ex-political prisoner have announced they will launch a civil lawsuit againt him in the United States.
Sherman, who during the administration of President Barack Obama was actively involved in negotiations leading to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, defended the current administration’s approach to reviving the agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
Repeating the US assessment that Iran had given “a pretty tough response” in its latest input to negotiations mediated by the European Union, Sherman said President Joe Biden would “continue to look for ways to move forward as long as we believe that it makes sense to do so.”
The administration was “planning for any eventuality,” Sherman said. “Whether the deal happens or the deal doesn’t happen, the president still believes it is in our interest to pursue the deal, and we’ll continue to do so as long as that is the case.”
The deputy secretary of state insisted that efforts to bring home American detainees from Iran was “a very high priority, the highest priority in many ways.” It was not dependent on whether the JCPOA was revived or not, she said.