U.S. political leaders voiced relief Saturday at the news that Iran was releasing five detained Americans, although several Republican Party presidential hopefuls renewed attacks on President Barack Obama for approving a related nuclear deal with Tehran that lifts economic sanctions.
U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul welcomed the prisoner swap, along with front-runner Donald Trump, who said the White House should have negotiated the prisoners' release much sooner.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, campaigning in Iowa, said he was happy for the families of the hostages. But he accused the Obama administration of "incentivizing" the detention of Americans by agreeing to the simultaneous release of seven Iranians. Those being released by the U.S. were either in prison already or awaiting sentencing for circumventing Western sanctions against Iran's nuclear program.
Rubio said foreign governments would take more Americans hostage in the future, in the hope they could then gain concessions from the Obama administration.
The Florida senator's claim drew a quick rebuke from U.S. Representative Jared Huffman, a Democrat who represents the family of detainee Jason Rezaian, a reporter for The Washington Post.
"There are some critics ... that just can't acknowledge anything good that comes from this administration," Huffman said. "I think it's shameful."
For her part, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton expressed relief at news of the releases, calling the deal "an important achievement of diplomacy backed by pressure." But she called for new sanctions against Tehran for recent ballistic missile testing and said Iran should not be thanked simply for meeting its international obligations.
As president, she said, her approach to Iran would be to "distrust and verify" while enforcing the nuclear deal.
In Iran, meanwhile, hard-liners also criticized the nuclear deal, which was agreed to by the U.S., other major world powers and Iran six months ago, because it called for removing the core of Iran's only known heavy-water reactor. That reactor was filled with cement in recent days as one of the final steps of the implementation of the deal announced in July.
Under the front-page headline "Nuclear Burial," the hard-line Iranian daily Vatan-e-Emrooz said loss of the reactor was "hurting national pride." The newspaper said closing the reactor was "the world's biggest subversive act."
Another Iranian newspaper known for its conservative, hard-line views also blasted the nuclear deal with an editorial headlined "Do not beautify America's face."