Last week, Iran announced the sentencing of a British-Iranian woman, Aras Amiri, to ten years in prison for spying. In 2016, Iran detained another British-Iranian woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, on espionage charges. Previously, Professor Abbas Edalat was accused by Iranian security officials of espionage but was later released.
Iranian-Americans held by Iran include businessman Siamak Namazi, and his father, Baquer Namazi. Iranian-Americans arrested and later released include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, and scholar Kian Tajbakhsh. And being born in the U.S. didn’t keep former U.S. Marine and military contractor Amir Mirza Hekmati out of jail.
Canadian-Iranians haven’t fared much better. Web programmer and permanent resident Saeed Malekpour remains in jail after ten years. Photographer Zahra Kazemi died in custody. And — in a case of real ingratitude — Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfehani, a dual citizen and a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiations team, was jailed on spying charges.
Though the Iranian security services aren’t fixated on dual nationals as they also arrested American student Matthew Trevithick and scholar Xiyue Wang, and Lebanese national and U.S. permanent resident Nizar Zakka, dual nationals are particularly vulnerable as Iran does not recognize dual citizenship for adults and it is very difficult to renounce Iranian citizenship.
Reuters reports Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has arrested at least 30 dual nationals since the adoption of the nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. And these guys aren’t afraid of repercussions: They arrested former FBI agent Robert Levinson and have held him for over 12 years.
What’s the best advice for Iranian-Americans? It’s reminiscent of advice on the best way to survive a gunfight: Don’t get into a gunfight.
These cases aren’t in the same league as the 444-day hostage crisis in 1979. Then, the hostages, over 50 Americans, were representing America’s interests in Iran when they were taken. Today’s arrests are the result of heedless choices. Governments (U.S., UK, Canada) have done their part and warned their citizens, but it’s a modern-day affliction to demand options and ignore consequences.
And, in an American twist, Messrs. Rezaian and Hekmati sued the Iranian government for taking advantage of the precarious situation they made for themselves. “Global arrogance,” indeed.
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, commenting on the arrest of Aras Amiri, said, “This erosion of previous norms against state-sponsored hostage taking… risks allowing a new middle age of international law.” But those “previous norms” were never universal and certainly aren’t the norms of the revolutionary regime, which are conditioned by the regime’s belief it is at war with the West — and Iranians who don’t support the revolution.
Right? Wrong? It doesn’t matter. The regime’s actions make their reality our reality.
Every government whose citizens have been arrested in Iran has worked to secure their release. In the case of the U.S., the release of Messrs. Rezaian, Hekmati, Abedini, and Trevithick was part of the JCPOA, likely sweetened by the U.S. transfer to Iran of several billion dollars of blocked funds and other concessions, known and unknown.
Recently Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif floated the idea of a prisoner exchange before pulling back in the face of criticism from hardliners that he displayed “weakness.” If the regime is only comfortable trading prisoners as part of a larger deal it may be some time before any more Iranian-Americans come home — unless the Iranians call President Trump who said, “I’d like to see them call me.”
A flow of citizens into the waiting arms of Iran’s security organs distorts what even in a best case would be the most difficult national security challenge, made more difficult by America’s arm-length dealing with Iran via protecting power Switzerland.
And what’s a major issue without a walk-on part for America’s litigation culture?
Jason Rezaian is seeking $1 billion from Iran and Amir Hekmati’s lawsuit netted a $63 million judgement, so their private collection efforts may delay efforts to normalize relations, such as flights to the U.S. by the Iranian national air carrier, Iran Air.
What to do?
As Nancy Reagan said, “Just say no.”
If you want to see your sainted mother in Iran, fly her to Dubai. Unless the U.S. government takes the unlikely step of trying to ban travel by Americans to Iran, social ostracism or public criticism may be in order once we realize these people aren’t the U.S. embassy hostages, but are volunteers in their predicament.
Source » thehill