A Lebanese citizen based in Washington, with permanent US residency status, was arrested in Iran on espionage charges, making it the second arrest of a visitor with American ties in one month, according to a report by the Associated Press on Tuesday. The Lebanese businessman, Nizar Zakka, who reportedly disappeared in Tehran on September 18, was attending a state-sponsored conference on entrepreneurship in Tehran. Siamak Namazi, the Iranian-American who was arrested in Iran last week, is also a businessman. He was attempting to establish stronger economic ties between the US and Iran. There are now a total of six US persons detained or missing in Iran.Following the arrests of Namazi and Zakka, The Wall Street Journal reported that, "Tehran's moves have fueled concern that hard-line political forces are cracking down on individuals and groups seeking a more open political and business environment." Washington Post Beirut bureau chief Liz Sly remarked, “It’s open season [on visitors with US ties].”
The new arrest comes amidst a flurry of condemnations from Capitol Hill regarding Iran’s detainment of Namazi and other US citizens. Lawmakers are urging the administration to take stronger action to punish Iran. They are advocating for actions that range from sanctioning individuals in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for the detainment of Namazi, to listing the entire IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and reauthorizing the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996.
Administration officials had expressed hopes that the nuclear deal would moderate Iran’s behavior, however, in the months after the deal was signed, Tehran has convicted Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian of espionage, test-fired a ballistic missile in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and increased its efforts to shore up the Assad regime in Syria, pouring around 1500 Iranian troops as well as arms into the country to participate in renewed assaults on Syrian opposition fighters.
Several experts, including Aaron David Miller, a former advisor to both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, predicted that the nuclear deal would not moderate the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh, a former State Department official, similarly argued that rather than softening the regime, the deal would allow it to consolidate power and Iran would likely become “a more hawkish theocracy.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas indicated that he considered all of Israel to be occupied Palestinian territory while speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, Palestinian Media Watch reported on Monday.
In his statement, Abbas asked the council, “Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, haven’t you wondered: For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years [i.e., Israel’s creation], how long? Do you think it can last, and that it benefits the Palestinian people?”
Abbas later added, “[The] holy sites which have been desecrated every other second again and again for seven decades now, under an occupation that does not quit killing, torturing, looting and imprisoning…”Abbas’ reference to 67 years or seven decades indicates he was speaking about the time of Israel’s founding in 1948, rather than the Six Day War in 1967, when it assumed control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
PMW observed that while it’s common for official Palestinian media and schools to claim that all of Israel is occupied, “it is rare that Abbas himself says this in an international forum.” The watchdog group also noted that the PA was careful not to reprint Abbas’ characterization of Israel as an occupied Palestinian territory in any official transcript.
Abbas has recently come under heavy criticism for inciting violence against Israel. In September, he called on Palestinians to protect Jerusalem’s holy sites from the “filthy feet” of Jews and blessed “every drop of blood” spilled for the city. Last month, he accusedIsrael of “executing” a teen terrorist who, along with his cousin, had stabbed and critically injured an Israeli teen, despite the fact that the terrorist was recovering in an Israeli hospital.
Abbas’ comments are often echoed by senior Palestinian officials. Last week, Mahmoud al-Habbash, Abbas’ advisor on Islamic affairs, referred to Israel as “Satan’s project.” In October, after a terrorist killed one Israeli and wounded 11 more at a Beersheba bus station, Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official who heads the Palestinian Football Association, called the attack an “act of heroism.” (via TheTower.org)