An Iranian-American businessman has been sentenced by a Tehran court to 10 years in jail for spying, NBC news reported, in what the newspaper said could jeopardize President-elect Joe Biden’s plans for diplomacy with the Islamic Republic.
Iran has recently embarked on a campaign to gain as much leverage before the incoming administration makes a bid to reenter the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, which includes major of the breaches of the agreement as well as hostage-taking. Under the Trump administration’s policy of maximum pressure, Iran had actually freed American hostages.
NBC news said Emad Shargi was arrested near the northern border with Iraq while trying to leave the country on December 6, 2020.
He was first arrested in April 2018 and jailed for about seven months. A year ago, in December 2019, an Iranian court had cleared Shargi, the report said, but the regime held onto his Iranian and U.S. passports.
The change of heart came in the wake of the U.S. presidential election and three days after the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, for which Iran holds Israel responsible.
“The case threatens to complicate plans by the next administration to pursue diplomacy with Iran, as President-elect Joe Biden has said he would be open to easing sanctions on Tehran if the regime returned to compliance with a 2015 nuclear agreement,” the NBC report said.
Three other Iranian-Americans are currently under detention in Iran: Siamak Namazi, his father, Baquer, and Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American environmental activist, who also has British citizenship.
Notably, the Trump administration imposed maximum pressure and got American hostages released. The incoming Biden team signals a return to a policy of paying Iran’s extortion racket – and now this. https://t.co/9mUsdVgji0
— Richard Goldberg (@rich_goldberg) January 18, 2021
Since Trump took office in 2016, Iran has released more than 40 U.S. hostages and detainees.
According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, the Biden administration has already unrolled its plan to return to the nuclear deal and has begun holding quiet talks with Iran.
A separate report by the Israel Hayom daily said Israel, wary of Biden’s promise to return to the deal, is crafting military options to “undermine Iran’s nuclear efforts or, if need be, counter Iranian aggression, which will soon be presented to the government.”
Iran last week announced it was resuming enriching uranium to 20 percent, in violation of the accords and a move Israel has warned proves the Islamic Republic is seeking nuclear weapons.
Iran can hardly wait! https://t.co/nnPYrza3MY
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 15, 2021