The US will continue nuclear talks with Iran, the White House said on Wednesday, after an Iranian plot to kidnap a US-based journalist was made public.
The White House strongly condemned the plot, which came to light late Tuesday when the Justice Department unveiled charges against four Iranian intelligence agents, who had allegedly planned to seize the dissident journalist and smuggle her to Iran.
A dual US-Iranian citizen, Masih Alinejad told CNN she was alerted by the FBI eight months ago that she was being watched and that her home was not safe.
They showed her intimate photographs of her home and family they said were taken by an investigator doing surveillance for the Iranians, to demonstrate that her home had been compromised.
She said she was moved to a series of safe houses while the FBI investigated the plot, which also involved a California-based Iranian who helped hire private investigators to follow her, according to the indictment.
“It’s unbelievable. I still cannot believe it that in New York, the Islamic republic was allowed actually to threaten and follow me, an American-Iranian citizen,” she told CNN.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called the US charges “baseless and absurd.”
“This is not the first time the United States has engaged in creating such Hollywood scenarios,” the ISNA news agency quoted Khatibzadeh as saying.
“Of course, we expect such stories from America, whose short history is filled with assassinations, kidnappings and sabotage,” he said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the plot “dangerous and despicable.”
Tehran’s “attempt to silence the voices of those peacefully working to address the situation both inside of Iran and outside of Iran are appalling,” she said.
“We will forcefully defend US citizens and US interests.”
According to the indictment filed in New York federal court, the Iranian intelligence officers tried in 2018 to force Alinejad’s Iran-based relatives to lure her to a third country to be arrested and taken to Iran to be imprisoned.
When that failed, they hired US private investigators to surveil her during the past two years.
The Iranian agents researched possible ways to move her out of the United States, including hiring a “military-style” speedboat to whisk her from Manhattan.
They also researched routes to travel by sea to Venezuela, an Iranian ally.