The Iranian government has detained a fourth U.S. citizen, potentially complicating the Biden administration's ongoing negotiations to free three other imprisoned Americans in the country.
The imprisonment of the American, who remains unnamed, was hinted at by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in a Sunday interview on CBS.
"We have tried very hard to secure the release of the four unjustly detained Americans in Iran; we have done so since the day that President Biden took office," Sullivan said.
Three Iranian-Americans—Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz—remain in custody in Iran. The White House has engaged in talks to free the group and is weighing the release of frozen Iranian funds in exchange for their freedom.
The two sides were nearing an agreement before the fourth arrest, Al-Monitor reported:
Last month, Washington and Tehran appeared to be on the verge of an agreement that would bring home the three Americans in exchange for Iran gaining limited access to billions of dollars in assets frozen abroad. Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, whose country has helped facilitate the prisoner talks, told Al-Monitor in a June 14 interview that the two sides were "close" to a deal.
A person familiar with the negotiations told Semafor that the new detention will not affect talks.
"Multiple senior officials at the State Department in the last few weeks have privately emphasized the U.S. and Iran have already agreed the fourth American will be part of any deal and there are no delays being caused by [the person’s] inclusion," the individual said.
The families of those detained have criticized the Biden administration's slow action in negotiating their freedom.
"I honestly don't understand why the president hasn't called us, why he won't speak with us," Hannah Shargi, the daughter of one of the prisoners, said in May.
The families said they have tried to talk with Biden several times but have not been successful.
"We're three daughters begging for our president to talk to us, to bring our dads home. And I'd like to see that happen," Shargi said.
Another daughter, Tara Tahbaz, said she handed Biden a letter weeks before asking for a meeting.
"Now we knew that he directly knows from our families that we're asking for this meeting," Tahbaz said. "And 44 days have gone by and we are still sitting here wondering why. What will it take for him to give us time to meet with us."
Published under: Iran