Iran arrests first American since nuke deal

Iran arrests first American since nuke deal
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The Iranian government has arrested an Iranian-American businessman living in Dubai, according to multiple reports on Friday, in what is likely to be interpreted as a signal of a crackdown following the international nuclear deal.

The man, Siamak Namazi, is the head of strategic planning at an energy company and was arrested by an arm of the Revolutionary Guards Corps two weeks ago while visiting family in Tehran, multiple news outlets reported. He is believed to be in his late 40s.


Namazi is the fourth American known to be imprisoned in Iran; his arrest signals new discord in the relationship between Tehran and the western world on the heels of the nuclear pact. A fifth American went missing in 2007, and Iran is believed to have knowledge of his whereabouts.

The arrest of Namazi is also being seen as a sign of the ongoing friction between Iran’s hard-liners and President Hassan Rouhani, who has pushed for reforms.

It is likely to send a chill through any in the business community looking to exploit new opportunities in the country as international sanctions dissipate in coming months, under the terms of the nuclear accord. The deal lifts international sanctions on Iran's oil and financial sectors in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

The Washington Post reported that Namazi’s family came to the U.S. when he was a boy in 1983. He returned to Iran after college, to serve in the military, and has had business in the country for more than a decade, the newspaper added.

Namazi was a proponent of greater engagement between the U.S. and Iran. In 2013, he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times urging countries to relax their restrictions so that life-saving medical supplies can be sent into Iran.

“The West must relax and rationalize the terms of its sanctions regime against Iran to allow more medical goods into the country,” he wrote. “If it doesn’t, more Iranian men, women and children will suffer needlessly.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, Iranian intelligence agents ransacked Namazi's family home in Tehran and took his computer. His email contacts have become the target of cyberattacks, the newspaper added.

Critics of the Obama administration’s stance toward Iran have chided the president for signing the nuclear pact without assuring commitments about the imprisoned Americans.

The Iranian government has suggested a willingness to trade the prisoners for an undefined group of Iranians in U.S. jails.  

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday in Vienna to discuss the nuclear deal. The two are among a group of international diplomats gathered in Austria to talk options for ending the civil war in Syria.