During the same week it's being widely reported that the US and Iran are engaging in prisoner swap negotiations related to the stalled nuclear deal talks in Vienna, it's been revealed Wednesday that the feds have charged four alleged Iranian intelligence agents for attempting to kidnap a dissident on US soil.
The Associated Press reports that "An Iranian intelligence officer and three alleged members of an Iranian intelligence network have been charged in Manhattan with plotting to kidnap a prominent Iranian opposition activist and writer in exile and take her back to Tehran, authorities said Tuesday."
The indictment doesn't reveal the victims' names based on the sensitivity of the case, but Brooklyn-based journalist and activist Masih Alinejad says she was among those targeted in the plot. The 44-year old Iranian-American appears regularly on the US-funded satellite TV channel Voice of America Persian. There were reportedly other targets living in Canada and America.
Her activism further includes organizing events against the mandatory wearing of headscarves and other mandated religious practices in the Islamic Republic. She said at first she felt "scared" when she learned of the plot, but later posted the following statement to social media: "I am grateful to FBI for foiling the Islamic Republic of Iran's Intelligence Ministry's plot to kidnap me. This plot was orchestrated under Rouhani. This is the regime that kidnapped & executed Ruhollah Zam. They've also kidnapped and jailed Jamshid Sharmahd and many others."
I am grateful to FBI for foiling the Islamic Republic of Iran's Intelligence Ministry's plot to kidnap me. This plot was orchestrated under Rouhani.
This is the regime that kidnapped & executed Ruhollah Zam. They've also kidnapped and jailed Jamshid Sharmahd and many others pic.twitter.com/HUefdEbiil
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 14, 2021
An official with New York's FBI office has been cited as saying it sounded like "some far-fetched movie plot" – the details of which are laid out in The Wall Street Journal as follows:
In an interview, Ms. Alinejad, who lives in Brooklyn, said federal agents informed her of the alleged kidnapping scheme last year and told her it was the first known attempt by Iranian officials to carry out a kidnapping plot on American soil.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors announced the kidnapping conspiracy charges against an Iranian intelligence official, Alireza Farahani, and three Iranian intelligence assets, all of whom remain at large in Iran. It couldn’t be determined if the men have U.S. attorneys.
Another individual has been arrested in California for reportedly providing financial support to the scheme. Essentially the goal was to get Alinejad and other targets to travel to Iran where they would have been apprehended as soon as they entered the country.
The WSJ details further that "The Iranian government tried to lure Ms. Alinejad to Iran through her relatives, prosecutors said." But her family refused and that's when the "intelligence network paid investigators to surveil and record Ms. Alinejad and her family in Brooklyn."
You're going to find out just how performative the last 4 years are based on WH press briefing questions tomorrow on this topic. https://t.co/ezTBsJfLXU
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) July 14, 2021
"They also researched ways to sneak Ms. Alinejad out of the U.S., including a plot to abduct her to Venezuela before bringing her to Iran, according to the indictment," the report says.
The timing of this major incident coming to light is key, given Vienna nuclear negotiations are said to be stalled till August. Crucially the new Iranian president, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, will take office August 3rd – meaning the previously stated White House desire to see a deal wrapped up before then looks out of reach.
This latest unprecedented and brazen plot allegedly overseen by Iranian intelligence will put immense pressure on the Biden administration to halt negotiations – something already being used of Iran hawks in Congress to argue against the JCPOA on both sides of the aisle.
July 15, 2021 3:30 am