The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Iran’s terrorist activities as the Islamic Republic doubled down on its strategy of arrest and imprisonment of American citizens.
During the Obama years, that strategy proved fruitful to Iran. Shortly after the Iran deal was signed, the Obama administration paid Iran $400 million in cash when Iran released four Americans (some dual-nationals) they had arrested and imprisoned on spurious charges.
Although the administration denied that the money was a payoff for the prisoners’ release, U.S. officials admitted that the Iranians had demanded the payment. Within a few short months, Iran had arrested more dual Iranian-Americans as well as dual-nationals from France, Canada and the UK.
The latest injustice done to an American citizen in Iran is the sentencing of international art dealer and dual national Karan Vafadari to 27 years in prison. The charges were the standard: spying, “conspiring against national security” and “attempting to over throw the regime.”
Vafadari and his Iranian wife Afarin Neyssari, a permanent resident of the U.S. who was sentenced to 16 years in prison, returned to Iran to invest in the homeland they loved, Vafadari said in a letter from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. The couple ended up opening an art gallery.
They were originally arrested in 2016 and charged with hosting mixed-gender parties for foreign diplomats and possessing alcoholic drinks at home, although as a Zoroastrian, Vafadari was legally allowed to drink liquor in the privacy of his home.
Although Vafardari said he was targeted because of his “international activities” in the art world and his religious faith, it is more likely that the couple was arrested as a slap in the face to America and for later use as bargaining chips.
In its latest imposition of penalties on Iran for their global terror activities, the Trump administration announced on January 31, 2018 new sanctions on Harakat al-Sabireen, an Iranian-backed, Palestinian terror organization operating in the Middle East. Harakat al-Sabireen operates in the Gaza Strip and the disputed territories in Israel as well as on Israel’s border. The Washington Free Beacon reports that the group is believed to receive $10 million a year from Iran, smuggled in through tunnels underneath the Egyptian-Gaza border.
In addition, the U.S. listed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh — leader of Hamas, a terror group that considers itself the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood — as a specially designated global terrorist.
A senior congressional source quoted by the Free Beacon said the new sanctions address Iran’s sponsorship of global terrorism.
“The designations today prove that the administration is trying to expose a nexus of terrorism that the Obama admin repeatedly turned a blind eye to,” the source said. “It’s not a coincidence that this announcement targets violent jihadist organizations carrying out operations against our allies, Israel and Egypt. These organizations pose a threat to regional stability, and serve as a reminder that radical Islamists do not discriminate. Placing military wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in the same ranks as Iranian proxies is a bold recognition of the seriousness of this threat.”
Iran will most likely not find in the Trump administration a likely target for blackmail. In fact, it is unimaginable that the U.S. under Trump would bow to Iranian pressure created by this latest arrest of an American citizen and pay a ransom.
Rather, the screws will be put on Iran instead.