Iranian kidnap plot won't affect nuclear talks: White House

Plot to kidnap US journalist won't affect Iran nuclear talks: White House
2 min read
15 July, 2021
Nuclear talks are 'still in our national interests', White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, despite four Iranian nationals being charged with plotting to abduct an American journalist in the US
Four Iranian nationals were charged with plotting to kidnap an American journalist [Getty]

A plot by Iranian nationals to kidnap an American journalist in the US won't affect nuclear talks with Tehran, the White House has said.

Four Iranian nationals were charged by the Justice Department with the alleged plot on Tuesday, one an Iranian intelligence official. A fifth person is accused of financing the operation.

Though the Justice Department did not name the journalist targeted in the plot, Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American activist and journalist living in New York and outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic said on Twitter that she had been the target.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the plot would not stop the indirect talks with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that the administration of former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

"Its (Iran's) actions to attempt to silence the voices of those peacefully working to address the situation both inside of Iran and outside of Iran that are appalling, we'll continue to speak out against that," Psaki said.

"But at the same time, we still see it... in our national interests to engage in ongoing discussions so that we can have greater visibility to Iran's path to acquire nuclear weapons."

President Joe Biden's administration has attempted to undo some of the damage to relations between Iran and the US.

Alinejad spoke to CNN on Wednesday about the kidnap plot.

"The Islamic Republic actually challenging the authorities, and saying that we have the power to actually come to your land, to your own soil and harass your journalists, spying on your citizen... We have to actually see Biden... condemn that, strongly," Alinejad said. 

She pointed to the case of Ruhollah Zam, a France-based Iranian dissident and journalist kidnapped in Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as an example of what Iran has done to activists and journalists abroad.

Iran executed Zam in December 2020, to international outcry.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh called the kidnap operation charges "baseless".

"It is not the first time that the US has resorted to such Hollywood scenarios whose sole purpose is to desperately revive its dead wood," Khatibzadeh told ISNA on Wednesday.