US Navy veteran Michael White returned to the United States early Friday after being released from Iran after nearly two years in prison.
The 48-year-old White arrived on a flight from Zurich to Dulles International Airport in Virginia near Washington, where he had been flown to the US authorities after being released by Iranian officials. White told Fox News that he had slept a few hours on the transatlantic flight after enjoying a steak dinner.
President Trump welcomed White to America early Friday in a Twitter message.
“It’s great to have Michael at home. Just arrived, ”wrote the president. “Very exciting. Thanks to Iran.”
US NAVY VETERAN SET IN IRAN IS FREE TO FOX NEWS ON THE FLOOR FOR ZURICH TRANSFER
Trump’s message also included a message to the Iranian leadership in Tehran.
“Don’t wait until after the US election to do the big deal,” advised Trump. “I’m going to win. You’re doing better business now!”
Relations between the United States and Iran have been tense since Trump decided in 2018 that the United States should withdraw from a nuclear deal that Iran signed with the world powers in 2015 during the Obama administration. Trump said his goal was to sign a replacement contract that would better protect U.S. interests.
In a recent move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week that the United States wanted to end all sanctions waivers that would allow European, Chinese, and Russian companies to work with Iranian nuclear sites despite U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Iran in retaliation for its nuclear enrichment activity, which resumed after Trump announced its withdrawal from the 2015 agreement.
POMPEO: ALL IRAN SANCTIONS THAT COVER NUCEAR PROJECTS END
White’s return to the US was negotiated as U.S. and Iranian officials continued their dialogue.
A senior US official told Fox News that as part of the White Liberation Agreement, the United States agreed to release an Iranian-American doctor, Majid Taheri, who is serving 16 months for violating American sanctions on Iran and was sentenced to prison on Thursday.
Taheri has lived in the United States for 33 years and is a Florida doctor, the official said.
Fox News was in Zurich on Thursday when White arrived from Tehran for the transfer. State Department Iranian envoy Brian Hook completed the transfer and took White off the plane into American custody and back to freedom.
White spoke exclusively to Fox News after landing and expressed his appreciation to the President he spoke to by phone after landing.
“I want to express my personal thanks to President Trump for his diplomatic and other efforts,” he said. “He’s making America great again and I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen here in the future.”
When asked about his health, White said that he had “improved” but had COVID-19 in prison.
“I’m getting a pretty decent recovery and getting back in shape,” he said. “I was really in bad shape at the time. But I’m getting much better through the Swiss Embassy and all the Trump administration’s efforts. “
White from Imperial Beach, California, was held in Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad, Iran.
White said he visited his girlfriend in Iran in July 2018 when the authorities there arrested him. In March 2019, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting the top Iranian leader and posting private photos on social media.
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In March, White, who fought cancer and other diseases, was initially released on a medical vacation, but was still instructed to stay in Iran at that time.
Officials say they are still working to free other American citizens in Iran, such as businessman Siamak Namazi. his father Baquer Namazi; and Morad Tahbaz, an American environmentalist; as well as the remains of former FBI agent Robert Levinson. His family announced at the end of March that they had received information that Levinson had died in Iranian detention.
Fox News’ Nicholas Kalman and Caitlin McFall contributed to this story.