How Dual Citizens Became Pawns in Iran’s Fight with the West

“I believe that the meaning of freedom will never be complete until all of us unjustly detained in Iran are reunited with our families,” the British-Iranian citizen told a press conference in London on Monday. It is reported by the British PA Media.

The release of Zagari-Ratcliffe and Anoush Ashuri was hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a “huge achievement” of British diplomacy, resolving an issue that had been on the country’s agenda for many years.

Last week’s release came as world powers, including the UK, were close to wrapping up negotiations to revive a 2015 deal that placed limits on Tehran’s nuclear program. The UK paid Iran around $520 million to pay off a 40-year release debt.

However, this was the end of only one chapter in a long history of prisoners who became a bargaining chip in political disputes between the Islamic Republic and the West.

The Western powers denied any connection between the release and the nuclear talks, but in their timing, some opponents of the deal called the deal “hostages” and the deal a “ransom”.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who served in the Donald Trump administration that pulled out of the 2015 deal, criticized the UK payment to Iran, calling it “blood money”.

Tehran has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying the arrests were made on charges of “national security” and “espionage.” Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.

Despite denying a link to the nuclear talks, the actions surrounding the arrest and release of Iranians with dual citizenship have in the past given a glimpse of where the talks might take.

For example, the number of dual citizens arrested by Iran increased dramatically by 2015, when the agreement was signed.

In 2016, five American prisoners were released on benefits? the first nuclear deal began. The release comes after one of the largest US government payments to Iran to settle a longstanding dispute.
While the release negotiations were underway, the US paid $400 million of funds frozen since 1981 that were sent to Iran in cash by plane, in addition to another $1.3 billion in interest owed to Iran. State Department spokesman John Kirby then stated that this was used as a “lever”.

According to Trita Parsi, not all dual citizens were arrested by Iran for the same reasons.

“Some of the people who were taken away at the beginning of the JCPOA were in fact intentionally captured by hardline elements. [within Iran] who wanted to make sure that the JCPOA didn’t escalate into a bigger thaw between the US and Iran,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the 2015 agreement is known.

The US has also carried out its own arrests of Iranians over the years, as former Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has repeatedly said. dedicated while in the office.

However, the release of prisoners on the one hand is usually accompanied by some form of exchange, whether it be a prisoner exchange or the settlement of old disputes, Parsi said, adding that Iranian prisoners in Western countries are usually those who have violated sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“The Iranians consider these [imprisonments] be illegitimate and consider it essentially a hostage-taking by the West,” he said.

The 2016 release was followed by more arrests, including that of US citizen Baker Namazi, who flew to Tehran to help free his son Siamak Namazi, also a US citizen.

in February Press releaseThe US State Department marked six years from the date of Namazi’s arrest, saying he is a “political pawn” of Iran, along with other detained foreign nationals.

Jason Razayan, a former Washington Post Tehran bureau chief who was among the prisoners released in 2016, said the prisoner issue should be placed at the forefront of the negotiating agenda with Iran “so you don’t risk your lives.” innocent people.”

“When I was in[Viranianprison)Iknewverywellthatthiswouldnothappen;Ineverintendedtobeprioritynumberone”CNNtoldCNN”Let’schangethislet’smakethisprioritynumberone”[виранскойтюрьме)яоченьхорошопонималчтоэтогонепроизойдет;яникогданесобиралсябытьприоритетомномеродин»—сказалонCNN«Давайтеизменимэтодавайтесделаемэтоприоритетомномеродин»[inanIranianprison)thatthatwasn’tgoingtohappen;Iwasnevergoingtobethenumberonepriority”hetoldCNN”Let’sturnitaround;let’smakeitthenumberonepriority”

Parsi said that plans for additional releases could be underway.

The following are Americans held in Iran who are likely to show up in talks between the Biden administration and the Islamic Republic as nuclear talks progress:

  • Emad Shargi: An Iranian-American businessman was first arrested in 2018 while working for a technology investment company. Shargi spent eight months in prison and was released on bail, but was banned from leaving. In November 2020, the Revolutionary Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison on charges of espionage. His family says that he innocent.
  • Siamak and Baker Namazi: Siamak Namazi was arrested and detained in October 2015, and a year later he was convicted of “conspiracy with an enemy state” – the United States – and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His elderly father Backer was arrested and detained in February 2016. lured to Iran under the false assumption that he would be able to see his son. Backer was released from prison in 2018 for health reasons, as he is prohibited from traveling. Their family says they are innocent.
  • Morad Tahbaz: An Iranian-American environmentalist who also holds British citizenship, Tahbaz was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019 on charges of “espionage” and “conspiracy against Iran’s national security.” He was released from prison last week and later returned to jail to wear an ankle tag. His family denies the charges against him.
  • Robert Levinson: A former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran over a decade ago, Levinson became the longest-detained US citizen in history in 2016. According to State Department officials, Levinson traveled to Iran’s Kish Island in early March 2007 and never made a public appearance. seen or heard again. His family believes he is dead.

Additional reporting by Adam Purahmadi, CNN

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