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The Biden Administration Reacts To Iran Kidnapping Charges

After referring to the alleged plot by Iran’s government to kidnap US journalist Masih Alinejad on American soil as a law enforcement matter on Tuesday evening, the Biden administration expressed its strong condemnation of the charges contained in the US Department of Justice’s indictment on Wednesday.

The day started with an anonymous US official telling Politico that the United States “categorically condemns” the scheme. But the same official stressed the US intends “to continue our effort to limit Iran’s nuclear program through a return to mutual compliance with the [deal] while also actively protecting American citizens and American interests on non-nuclear issues.”

Later, at the daily White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the Iranian plan a “dangerous and despicable reported plot” and said the Biden administration would continue to speak out against Iran’s attempts “to silence those peacefully working to address the situation both inside Iran and outside of Iran that are appalling.” She added “we will forcefully defend US citizens and US interests. That includes law enforcement actions like the one announced yesterday.” But Psaki stressed that Washington would continue the negotiations in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

Later, US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley tweeted for the first time about the indictment right before the US State Department press briefing was scheduled to begin. He wrote he was “greatly disturbed by Iran’s alleged plot to kidnap a US citizen. We strongly condemn Iran’s continued attempts at kidnapping journalists and critics of the regime in order to silence dissent.” Malley added, “even as the US remains willing to engage in diplomacy toward a mutual return to the JCPOA, we will not hesitate to defend our citizens and call out Iran’s human rights abuses.” The US State Department’s spokesman Ned Price emphasized the same message during his briefing, arguing that Iran’s non-nuclear malign behavior—like the kidnapping plot—would be more challenging if Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapon and that Iran’s conduct in this field has grown worse, not better, after the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign. He also stressed the American willingness to return to the nuclear deal was not open-ended.

Throughout the day, US lawmakers also commented on the charges. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) tweeted “from day one the Iran nuclear deal has been flawed. Instead of appeasing the Iranian regime Biden needs to call off talks, enforce President Trump’s sanctions, and return to maximum pressure.” The Ranking Member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) added “I’m appalled by Iran’s brazen attempt to kidnap an American journalist on US soil. As the administration continues narrow talks with Iran, terrorism and safety of American citizens must be prioritized. Progress on the nuclear piece is meaningless if we can’t protect our citizens, both here and abroad.” Emerging from a briefing with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Iran on Wednesday, the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned the good faith of the Iranian negotiators in Vienna following the Alinejad kidnapping plot revelations.

Aside from these reactions, President Joe Biden, Secretary Blinken, and other senior members of the US national security team have not commented publicly on the charges. But with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington tomorrow, she is scheduled to hold a joint press conference with the president. The two leaders could be asked about this plot at that time.

Jason M. Brodsky, Senior Middle East Analyst at Iran International.
Senior Middle East analyst at Iran International
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