Iran has confirmed the July detention of US citizen and Navy veteran Michael White, but denies claims that the prisoner is being abused, describing the allegations as “psychological warfare.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassem spoke out against allegations leveled by the New York Times on Monday, which said that the former Navy SEAL is being held in an Iranian prison under “suboptimal conditions.”
CBS news joined in the media-dogpile the next day, upping the ante with claims that White “was suffering psychologically and was being held in a ward with dangerous criminals.” Their source is former Iranian prisoner and ‘cyber activist’ Ivar Farhadi who first broke the news of the veteran’s arrest on his Twitter account in October. Farhadi claims he met the American prisoner while “playing volleyball” in Vakilabad Prison which is in Mashhad, the city where White was arrested last summer. The circumstances which led to the arrest are not exactly clear, and no official charges have been leveled.
Qassemi told reporters Wednesday that the his government “strongly rejects such untrue and false reports,” and referred to the claims as “psychological warfare” aimed at stoking public animosity toward Iran. While the Islamic Republic hadn’t gone public about the arrest until the conference, Qassemi assured the press that “the US Interests Section in Tehran was informed in the first days” following the arrest.
While Washington admitted to knowing about the arrest, they had little else to say about the situation. The Trump administration’s anti-Iran warhawks, on the other hand, have been quick to jump at the opportunity to push for aggressive counter measures, just days after the EU announced they would be introducing a new round of sanctions.
Met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry today and thanked him for #Egypt’s efforts to increase regional security and stability. We also discussed our shared, continued focus on combating the #Iran regime’s malevolent behavior. pic.twitter.com/mYcOAmBPDz
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 10, 2019
I look forward to working with my colleagues to reintroduce and pass the Iran Hostage Act to make clear to our adversaries: if you take an American hostage, there will be consequences
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) January 8, 2019
On Thursday, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh called the new sanctions “fully illegal,” and announced that Iran would not comply with them.
According to media reports, there are at least four other American citizens currently imprisoned in Iran. White, however, is the first detained during the Trump presidency which has seen the relationship between Tehran and Washington turn toxic. Trump’s all-or-nothing demands on the Islamic Republic have driven the improving relations following Obama’s nuclear deal into a ditch, leaving the long time rivals back at daggers drawn.
While official contact between the two countries has been suspended since Trump reneged on the Nuclear deal, the two sides have since turned Twitter into an impromptu platform for trash talking one another.
While ordinarily it might be flattering, @SecPompeo’s and @AmbJohnBolton’s pure obsession with Iran is more and more like the behavior of persistently failing psychotic stalkers.
In effect, US is substituting a real foreign policy with Iran- obsession and -phobia.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2019
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself has openly provoked Trump, saying he “cannot do a damn thing” to stop Iran, and calling US officials “first-class idiots.”
Like this story? Share it with a friend!