Three dual American-Iranian citizens are being held in Iranian prisons on what U.S. officials are calling trumped-up charges of espionage. The 3 citizens labeled by the U.S. as 'wrongfully detained' are Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz. In a surprise announcement over the weekend, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian claimed that Iran had reached an agreement for a prisoner swap with the U.S.
"Regarding the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States, we have reached an agreement in recent days, and if everything goes well on the American side, then I think we will see the exchange of prisoners soon," Amir-Abdollahian announced in a televised statement Sunday. "We consider this a completely humanitarian case," he concluded.
However, Amir-Abdollahian's announcement came as a surprise to U.S. officials, as both State Department and National Security Council (NSC) denied that any such deal existed. State Department spokesman Ned Price severely criticized what he referred to as a "cruel lie" on the part of the Iranians.
"We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three wrongfully detained Americans in Iran," Price said in response on Sunday. "We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones," he added.
Price also said that the Foreign Minister's remarks were "another especially cruel lie that only adds to the suffering of their families."
Concurrently with the State Department's comments, the NSC issued a statement, saying, "Unfortunately, Iranian officials will not hesitate to make things up, and the latest cruel claim will cause more heartache for the families of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz." The NSC also noted that it has "nothing to announce at this time" regarding the detained dual citizens.
While it remains unclear why Iran has announced a prisoner swap when there was never a deal on the table,e according to U.S. officials, Tehran has a history of using U.S. dual nationals it has detained to leverage the U.S. There is also a possibility that secret negotiations have been underway and that Iran prematurely announced the prisoner exchange before the U.S. had finalized the agreement.
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