America’s unending hostage crisis with Iran


For nearly four decades, has imprisoned American citizens. And for nearly four decades, Washington has strived to free prisoners through diplomacy, force or persuasion. The dynamic has bedeviled presidents Democratic and Republican.


d with a prisoner trade with . After more than a year of secret negotiations, the U.S. president announced that five Americans were freed from captivity, closing a deal he dubbed a “one-time gesture.”

But even before Obama stepped down, American diplomats were back at the negotiating table, struggling to secure the release of more prisoners.

His successor, Donald Trump, blasted Obama as soft on . As a candidate, Trump made a bold pledge on ’s prisoner taking: “This doesn’t happen if I’m president!”

Trump didn’t deliver. More than a year into his presidency, still holds prisoner at least five U.S. citizens and permanent residents – including one taken during Trump’s tenure. The White House declined to comment, and the State Department said the United States works “tirelessly” to free Americans held in

His administration confronts a troubling reality: There is no easy way to stop from taking Americans prisoner, a tactic Tehran has employed since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.


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