Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, holds one of the heaviest duties in the Islamic Republic – the leading of negotiations over its nuclear program.
In the past year, since he become foreign minister, the difficulties of the talks have given him a lot of troubles - he has even suffered physical ailments evidently caused by the high tension between him and the hardliners in parliament.
In spite of the consequences and the numerous stones in his path of reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal, Zarif tolerates every obstacle with one goal in mind: lifting the sanctions and proving that Iran is a peaceful nation.
Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) extended the talks at their conclusion on July 19 for another four months to continue working on the gaps between them in hopes of reaching a conclusive deal.
While the United States is just one of the players in the talks, it clearly has the strongest position and the most major role on the P5+1’s side of the table.
In Iran, the current government understands that the time to move forward in the country’s future is nowCamelia Entekhabi-Fard
Making any destructive act void and maintaining rational behavior is only a part of the talks. Iranian and U.S. diplomats not only engaged at the discussions in Vienna, but were also busy back home keeping their hardliners at bay in order to keep a positive and constructive atmosphere.
While all parties have agreed to meet in the first week of September, perhaps at the U.N. headquarters in New York City for the next ministerial level of the nuclear talks, in Iran, four journalists - three of them U.S. citizens - were arrested last Tuesday.
Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post Correspondent in Iran and his wife Yeghaneh Salehi who was working with the UAE newspaper The National - along with another photojournalist and her husband - were all arrested in Tehran.
Gholamhossein Esmaili, the director general of Tehran province’s justice department, confirmed on July 25 that the Washington Post correspondent was being held, according to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency.
Speaking to reporters at a public event, Esmaili said that the journalist “has been detained for some questions and after technical investigations, the judiciary will provide details on the issue.”
He added that Iranian security forces are “vigilant towards all kind of enemy activities,” according to IRNA.
The director general of Tehran province hasn’t provided details about the arrest, but knowing three of the detainees are dual citizens could be seen as a rise of new tensions between Iran and the United States, at a time when both countries aim to improve their relations.
The arrest of Rezaian is the first case of an American journalist being detained in Iran since 2009, and surprised many observers in both the U.S. and Iran.
An Iranian diplomat speaking on the condition of anonymity told me that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may intervene for the group’s release if he comes to believe that the arrest was a campaign to damage the nuclear talks and pressure President Hassan Rowhani and Zarif.
“Ayatollah Khamenei supports the talks but there still are hardliners in the judiciary and other institutions which are against them, and may they act to embarrass the negotiator’s team. If this is the case the supreme leader would fix it,” the diplomat said.
Rezaian was arrested shortly after returning from his last trip to Vienna to cover Iran’s nuclear talks with the P5+1.
The two other Americans detained on Tuesday are a female freelance photojournalist and her husband.
The Washington Post reported that a relative of the photojournalist said the family is working through contacts in Iran to secure their release. He said relatives have asked that their names not be made public.
In Iran, the current government understands that the time to move forward in the country’s future is now and won’t let anything jeopardize the talks.
The nuclear negotiations are an historic opportunity for Iran to demonstrate the true changes they are claiming, and the arrest of the U.S. citizen journalists couldn’t play a destructive role even if some wish for that. The complex and difficult task of resolving a crisis that has lasted more than a decade between the two countries cannot happen overnight - a fact that has been acknowledged by both sides.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard