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A U.S. Navy veteran and cancer survivor held captive in Iran for nearly two years was released on Thursday and immediately thanked President Donald Trump for his freedom.
Michael White, 48, arrived at Dulles International Airport on a flight from Zurich, Switzerland, where he was taken to be handed off to American officials following his release by Iranian authorities.
In a post-flight interview with Fox News, White said he managed to sleep for a few hours on the trans-Atlantic flight after eating a steak dinner.
Upon hearing the news that White was back in the United States, President Trump took to Twitter to welcome him home early Friday morning.
“So great to have Michael home. Just arrived. Very exciting. Thank you to Iran,” he wrote.
He also gave the Iranians a bit of diplomatic advice.
“Don’t wait until after U.S. Election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now!” Trump wrote.
White, who was sentenced to over 10 years in prison, made sure to give President Trump credit for his release.
“I want to extend my personal thanks to for his efforts, both diplomatically and otherwise, making America great again, and I look forward to what’s going to happen in the future,” White said.
The former captive added that his health is “improving” after he says he contracted coronavirus while in an Iranian prison, noting that he began to get better after being “furloughed” by the Iranians and while in Switzerland.
Given the state of U.S.-Iranian relations, it is no small feat getting White released. Diplomatic ties between Washington and Tehran began to fray after President Trump decided to withdraw from the ‘nuclear deal’ made with Iran by the Obama administration, an agreement that Trump regularly criticized while on the 2016 campaign trail as good for Tehran but bad for the U.S.
Since then, Trump has said his objective is to replace the Obama-era agreement with one that would better protect American interests.
In a recent development that may have had some bearing on Iran’s decision to release White, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week that the administration was moving to end all sanction waivers allowing European, Chinese, and Russian companies to work on Iranian nuclear sites despite existing sanctions.
The administration placed additional economic sanctions on Iran last year following Tehran’s decision to resume nuclear enrichment following Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Obama deal.
White’s release came as American and Iranian officials continue diplomatic dialogue with an eye towards resolving long-standing issues.
Fox News noted further that a senior official told the network that as part of the deal to release White, the Trump administration agreed to release an Iranian-American doctor, Majid Taheri, who was jailed for 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. Taheri was sentenced on Thursday to time served.
Taheri has lived in the United States for 33 years and is a medical doctor in Florida, according to the U.S. official who spoke to Fox News.
As for White, Iran initially sentenced him to two years in prison in 2018 for allegedly insulting the supreme leader; the regime sentenced him to an additional 10 years after posting a private photo to social media.
He had traveled to the Islamic republic to visit a girlfriend whom he met online. White had previously served in the U.S. Navy for 13 years.
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