President Joe Biden Sanctions Iran, Russia for Wrongful Detention and Hostage-Taking: “Release Them Immediately”

On Thursday, the Biden administration imposed new sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intelligence organization and Russia’s Federal Security Service and accused them of wrongfully detaining Americans.

In conjunction with the sanctions, President Joe Biden also announced additional steps to deter and punish countries for wrongfully detaining Americans or taking them as hostages.

“Today, and every day, our message to Russia, Iran, and the world is holding hostage or wrongfully detaining Americans is unacceptable. Release them immediately,” said Biden in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

Biden added, “Today, I am proud to announce that my Administration will, for the first time, deploy a new tool to impose severe economic costs on governments and groups that hold hostage or wrongfully detain Americans around the world.”

“Since the first day of my administration, we have prioritized the safe return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. We have now brought home dozens of Americans, many of whom had been held since before I took office,” continued Biden. “Still, too many are suffering and separated from their loved ones — including Americans who remain wrongfully detained in Russia, Iran, and elsewhere.

We remain unflinching in our efforts to keep faith with them and their families, to pursue new ways to bring them home until we succeed, and to prevent this from happening to other families in the future.”

Biden said in a statement that putting a financial squeeze on countries in violation should deter them from imprisoning Americans and urged their swift release.

“Today, the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury have announced the U.S. Government’s first-ever sanctions against actors for engaging in the wrongful detention of Americans,” said the president.

“These sanctions against four individuals and two security services in Russia and Iran mean that all of the designees’ property and interests in property in the possession or control of U.S. persons are now blocked. These steps to cut off these actors from the legitimate financial system make use of the Executive Order that I issued last summer that, itself, built on the 2020 Hostage Recovery and Hostage Taking Accountability Act. That law passed largely due to the perseverance of the families and so many others in this community who have worked to turn pain into purpose.”

Senior administration officials didn’t specify which detained Americans were the basis of economic sanctions

Senior officials with the administration didn’t specify which Americans were being detained that were the basis of the economic retaliation. Instead, they indicated that the sanctions followed the same pattern of the two nations unjustly detaining Americans.

The United States Treasury said Iranian authorities frequently hold and interrogate detainees, and Tehran has a “direct role in the repression of protests and arrest of dissidents, including dual nationals.”

According to senior administration officials, the Thursday sanctions had been in the works weeks before the arrest of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, in Russia last month.

The imprisonment of Gershkovich was swiftly and officially deemed unjust by the government of the U.S. Russia also holds American Paul Whelan in prison.

In addition, the Biden administration is taking action against both countries, announcing additional sanctions on four IRGC leaders accused of being involved in hostage-taking efforts.

Last year, President Biden issued an executive order authorizing the president to impose sanctions on individuals believed to be involved in the wrongful detention of Americans.

The authority of the executive order was granted under a section of the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, named after an FBI agent who vanished in Iran 15 years ago and was presumed dead later.