>> I don't care. So we're getting them back. And then I heard, but wait a minute, we're paying a big price.>> When President Barack Obama arranged a prisoner swap with Iran in early 2016, Republican candidate Donald Trump was not happy, slamming Obama for giving up too much to what we called a quote, terror country.
>> They're getting unbelievable advantages.>> And just before winning the 2016 election, Trump tweeted one of his boldest campaign pledges that Iran wouldn't take Americans prisoner if he became president. But a year and a half into his first term, he has not delivered. At least five Americans are still held in Iran as Trump faces the same trouble in reality as many of his predecessors, both Republican and Democrat.
Joel Schectman is on the story.>> This is something that almost every administration has had to really deal with, since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Taking American prisoners, either by Iran or by Iran's proxies in the Middle East, has been sort of a recurrent strategy. And there's just no playbook for how to resolve these crises.
>> In 1980, Jimmy Carter famously attempted a military operation to free Americans taken prisoner at the US Embassy in Tehran, only to have eight soldiers die in an embarrassing and tragic helicopter mishap. Obama's more low-key dealmaking decades later had the unexpected result of all, but ensuring further concessions to Iran would be required to free more Americans, dimming Trump's chances of success.
But he's made the path hard for himself in other ways too.>> There are a lot of major factors that make another prisoner trade at this moment almost impossible. Firstly, the Trump administration, in pulling out of the nuclear deal in May, they sent a very strong signal to Iran about their willingness, and perhaps, ability to make another deal.
The Obama administration's experience with the prisoner trade in 2016 which, despite the success of bringing five American's home, still failed to free two American's captured in Iran. That experience, I think, is a very strong cautionary tale for the Trump administration. It's really boasted openly about the tough stance that they wanna take in the world.
>> And that means Trump, for all his tough rhetoric with Iran, still faces steep hurdles in making good on his pledge.