Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Iran's blackmail politics is bound to end in failure

Tehran has jailed a British-Iranian man in yet another attempt to pressure western nations

Mr Ahmady has been arrested in Iran by security forces, his family said. EPA
Mr Ahmady has been arrested in Iran by security forces, his family said. EPA

Last weekend, a British-Iranian academic was arrested in Tehran and thrown in Evin prison. The detention facility is notorious for housing political prisoners but also dual nationals and foreigners who are routinely locked up on bogus charges.

Kameel Ahmady has not been charged with a crime and Iranian prosecutors have yet to disclose what he is accused of doing. But his detention is unsurprising. It is only the latest in a series of arbitrary arrests targeting dual nationals and foreigners in Iran.

In 2016, British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed in Evin on espionage charges. To this day, she has been deprived of her liberty. Even as she was hospitalised last month, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was closely guarded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and denied family visits. Her daughter Gabriella was only 22 months old when her mother was unfairly arrested. In addition to growing up without her mother, she has been trapped in Tehran for the past three years, away from her father too.

Prisoners such as Ahmady and Zaghari-Ratcliffe have done nothing wrong. They are being held hostage by Iran, as a means of putting pressure on western governments. The charges held against them and other foreign detainees are often ludicrous. The story of Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese citizen who was recently released after spending four years at Evin, is a case in point. He was imprisoned on espionage charges after a five-minute trial. On his release he said that members of the IRGC accused him of organising the Ukrainian revolution and handed him a 10-year sentence for espionage and a Dh15.4million fine.

These arbitrary, absurd detentions are not isolated incidents. They are part of a cynical tactic initiated by Tehran since the early days of the so-called Islamic Revolution. In 1979 the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown by a popular revolt. In the chaos that ensued, militants affiliated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held hostage 52 American diplomats and citizens for 444 days. Ayatollah Khomeini, who rose to power at the time, used the hostages as leverage to force the US into handing over the Shah, who was receiving cancer treatment there. This act of political blackmail has failed to provide any results. It only isolated Iran from the international community and led to the closure of the US embassy and the imposition of sanctions against Tehran. But instead of changing its ways, Iran has stubbornly pursued the same strategy for decades. It seized 15 British naval personnel in 2007 and more recently the Stena Impero, a British-flagged oil tanker, as it was passing the Strait of Hormuz, holding the ship and its crew hostage.

Gambling with people’s lives will not get Tehran any political concessions. It is shameful that innocent civilians, who should be able to feel protected in their country of residence, are being used as political pawns in Iran’s blackmail diplomacy.

Updated: August 15, 2019 07:15 PM

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