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Former hostage of Iran wants Biden to make prisoner release a priority

Former Iran hostage on life after release
Former Iran hostage on life after release and diplomacy with Iran 02:40

U.S. military officials told CBS News that Iran and its militias may be planning to act against a U.S. embassy or military base in the region. Iran has vowed revenge for the U.S. airstrike that killed General Qassem Soleimani a year ago.

With tension mounting, CBS News spoke to Xiyue Wang, an American recently released from an Iranian prison after spending three and half years there. His son was just a toddler when Xiyue was imprisoned in Iran on fabricated charges of espionage. He maintains that he's just a scholar and was targeted because he's American. 

Xiyue said his interrogator "very explicitly" told him they had imprisoned him in hopes that the U.S. would make a deal. 

"The Ministry of Intelligence interrogator told me clearly that they need me as a spy to convict me so that they can do a deal with the United States," he said. 

"You're not the first American and you can be assured that you're not the last American to be in Iranian jail," the interrogator said, according to Xiyue. 

In 2019, President Trump swapped a jailed Iranian scientist for Xiyue. 

"They didn't get everything they had hoped for," Xiyue said, adding that the Iranians wanted money and for the U.S. to unfreeze their assets. 

At least three other Americans are still being held, one of which Xiyue said he met in prison. 

President-elect Biden wants to try out diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, but expert Suzanne Maloney says that shouldn't be the only issue. The Biden team has offered to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, which would lift sanctions worth billions. 

"There needs to be negotiations around the nuclear issue. But that doesn't mean subordinating the other sets of concerns, particularly the lives of Americans who are held in Iranian prisons," said Maloney, the director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution. 

Xiyue is urging Mr. Biden to make the release of Americans held hostage his first priority. 

"Without their return: no deal with Iran," he said. 

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