The Trump administration did recently launch an effort to free the Americans held in Tehran, including businessman Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi and a Princeton University graduate student, Xiyue Wang, sources told me. But so far there’s been no result — and if Trump carries out his threat to reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran next month, the initiative will be stillborn.
In the case of Turkey, Trump has tried and failed. Both he and Vice President Pence asked Erdogan for the release of an imprisoned American pastor, Andrew Brunson, and were rebuffed. But Turkey, like Egypt, is an ally, and the administration has stopped short of using tools that might create more leverage. How about suspending U.S. military aid and sales to Egypt and Turkey until innocent Americans are released? That would show that Trump really does put America first.