As the State Department said Thursday that Secretary of State John Kerry “raised the cases of our detained and missing U.S. citizens” with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, reports surfaced that Tehran has seized another American.
Siamak Namazi, a businessman who was raised in the United States and had been working out of Dubai, was reportedly arrested earlier this month while was visiting a friend in Tehran.
Namazi hails from a prominent Iranian family; his father used to be governor in Khuzestan province, and the family immigrated to the U.S. in 1983.
“Siamak Namazi, solid analyst & US citizen I’ve known well for a decade, arrested in Iran. Charges unclear, almost certainly unfounded,” tweeted political scientist and president of the Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer.
Washington Post report Jason Rezaian, who has reported from Tehran since 2008, was seized on July 22, 2014, in a raid on his home. Marine vet Amir Hekmati has been held more than four years, Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini has been held for more than three years, and retired FBI agent Bob Levinson has been missing in Iran and held by unknown captors for more than eight years.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) called Namazi’s arrest “the latest show of contempt for America.”
“This American executive – who has worked to promote closer U.S.-Iran relations – deserves to be home with his family,” Royce said today. “So do the other four Americans either detained or missing in Iran. Unfortunately for Siamak and his family, I fear that his ‘case’ will play out like the others: a closed sham trail with no transparency, no evidence and no representation – and even brutal treatment.”
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who represents Hekmati, called the reports “troubling.”
“Iran has a long history of imprisoning Americans, including my constituent, Amir Hekmati, who continues to be held despite his innocence. Iran has repeatedly said it seeks to rejoin the global community, yet I simply cannot fathom how this is possible if it continues to hold American political prisoners,” Kildee said. “Iran must release Amir and the other innocent Americans it is holding.”
“Even after securing a deal so favorable to their despotic nation, Iran continues to show outright contempt for the United States, exemplifying their disdain by arresting Siamak Namazi, a figure diligently working to promote actual ties between our nations,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted on Fox News that Namazi is “closely tied” to the Iran lobby in Washington, D.C., including the pro-nuclear deal National Iranian American Council. “What you’re seeing now is Mr. Namazi has found himself in between three essential mafia families that control Iran: the Rafsanjani/Rouhani crowd, the Revolutionary Guards, and the office of the Supreme Leader. And I think it should put to rest the delusion that there’s any moderate forces in Iran.”
Dubowitz surmised that Namazi was targeted because he’s “fallen out of favor with the Supreme Leader and/or the Revolutionary Guards and their intelligence services.”
He noted that not only has Iran seized another American since the nuclear deal was signed but has tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a warhead in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
NIAC released a statement downplaying their relationship with Namazi.
“False claims have been made on some websites, including one published under a pseudonym, that Mr. Namazi and his family have played a leadership role in NIAC. These reports are false, and the pseudonymously asserted claims were deconstructed in an analysis by the media watchdog group, Media Matters. While Mr. Namazi has known members of NIAC’s staff, neither he nor his family have had any leadership or any other significant role with NIAC,” the lobbying group said.
“…The reports of Mr. Namazi’s detention have not provided any basis for his alleged detention. NIAC is very concerned by the continued detention of multiple Iranian Americans by the Iranian government, and is deeply troubled by the reports that Mr. Namazi may also have been detained.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at today’s briefing that “we are aware of reports that an American has potentially been detained in Iran.”
Earnest added that President Obama “has made a priority securing the release of Americans who are detained in Iran… that has been the priority of the president for a long time.”
Royce noted Kerry’s meeting today in Europe with Zarif.
“He will yet again raise the cases of the now five Americans detained by Iran. Enough is enough,” Mr. Secretary, don’t just raise the cases – demand that these Americans come home now.”