(CNSNews.com) – On the eve of the deadline for President Trump to grade Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal, Iran’s foreign minister accused him of violating the accord, while the administration called on the regime to release U.S. citizens held on “fabricated” security charges.
The raised rhetoric comes three months into an administration review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, and at a time when JCPOA critics in Congress are urging Trump to determine that Iran is not abiding by its commitments.
Ever since the agreement began being implemented Tehran has accused the U.S. of not keeping its part of the bargain.
But the criticism has grown of late, sparked by a Senate vote last month for tough new bipartisan Iran sanctions, and by Trump’s appeal during the recent G20 summit in Hamburg for countries not to do business with Iran.
Citing the president’s G20 stance, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Sunday that the U.S. “has failed to implement its part of the bargain.”
“President Trump used his presence in Hamburg during the G20 meeting in order to dissuade leaders from other countries to engage in business with Iran,” he told CNN.
Calling that a violation of the “letter” of the JCPOA, Zarif added that the U.S. “needs to bring itself into compliance with its party of the obligation under the deal.”
The deal negotiated with Iran by the Obama administration and counterparts from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany called on the U.S. and other countries not to stand in the way of business and investment resuming with Iran as sanctions were eased or lifted. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry in May 2016 declared Iran, with some exceptions, to be “open for business.”
Zarif told CNN that Iran has been keeping its part of the deal, citing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessments.
“Unfortunately we cannot make the same statement about the United States,” he added.
But Iran’s critics in the U.S. have complaints of their own about its conduct since the deal came into effect. Last week four GOP senators urged the administration not to certify that Iran has complied, listing alleged Iranian violations and pointing to its behavior on non-nuclear issues as well
Such certification is required every 90 days, with Monday the next due date.
Meanwhile Iran announced at the weekend that an American citizen had been preliminarily sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment after being convicted of “infiltration.”
“The spy was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the preliminary court,” said Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, adding that the unidentified man had been able to enter the country “through a special kind of influence.”
Ejai said once the sentence is confirmed, he would provide further information, showing that the man had been “directly supported by the U.S.”
In a statement to news agencies Sunday that did not refer to a specific case, the State Department called on Iran to release immediately American citizens being held on “fabricated national security-related charges.”
“We call for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families,” it said.
Princeton University named the latest American to be sentenced as a 37-year-old graduate history student, Xiyue Wang, who was in Iran to conduct doctoral dissertation research.
“He was arrested in Iran last summer, while there doing scholarly research on the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation,” it said. “Since his arrest, the university has worked with Mr. Wang’s family, the U.S. government, private counsel and others to facilitate his release.”
“We were very distressed by the charges brought against him in connection with his scholarly activities, and by his subsequent conviction and sentence,” Princeton said, voicing the hope he would be released on appeal.
During the negotiations that produced the JCPOA, Iran incarcerated a number of American citizens accused of various offenses.
It released five of them on the day the nuclear deal took effect – and on the same day the Obama administration handed Iran $400 million in cash, in what it says was settlement of a long running legal dispute. (A further $1.3 billion in interest was paid subsequently.)
Critics said it amounted to a “ransom” payment for what were effectively “hostages,” and U.S. lawmakers – led by then Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, now CIA director, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – later introduced legislation prohibiting “ransom” payments in exchange for Iran’s release of imprisoned Americans.
Since JCPOA implementation began, Iran has arrested several more Americans, including Baquer Namazi, an 80-year-old Iranian-American citizen arrested weeks later; Robin Reza Shahini of San Diego, Calif., detained while visiting his mother in Iran in mid-2016 and later reportedly sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment on charges of threatening national security; and Karan Vafadari, an Iranian-American art dealer and adherent of the minority Zoroastrian faith who has been detained, along with his wife Afarin Niasari, for the past year.
Namazi’s businessman son, Siamak, also a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, had been arrested in 2015, and father and son were both sentenced last October to ten years’ imprisonment for cooperating with the U.S.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran a decade ago, remains unaccounted for.
A State Department travel advisory warns U.S. citizens to weigh the risks of traveling to Iran, where it says “authorities continue to unjustly detain and imprison U.S. citizens, particularly Iranian-Americans, including students, journalists, business travelers, and academics, on charges including espionage and posing a threat to national security.”