The announcement this week that Iran has sentenced Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian to prison — for an unannounced period of time and after he already has spent the last 16 months in jail — is another blunt indication of Tehran’s thumbing its nose at the U.S.
No evidence has been shown to indicate why Rezaian, a respected journalist with dual citizenship, is guilty of espionage and other charges. Even The New York Times, whose editorial page enthusiastically endorsed the Iran nuclear deal, noted on Monday that “the treatment of Mr. Rezaian has intensified … concerns about whether Iran can be trusted to fulfill its nuclear commitments.”
That’s putting it mildly.
While some in the U.S. predicted that the nuclear agreement and moves toward lifting economic sanctions would lead to a thawing of relations between Washington and Tehran, the reality has been quite the opposite. Iran arrested two more U.S. citizens in recent weeks, bringing the number to at least five incarcerated on vague charges. One of the recent detainees is a Lebanese-American man who was in Tehran as a guest of the Iranian government for a conference. The other is a native of Iran, now an American, who was visiting family in Tehran and has been a supporter of closer ties between the two countries.
Just this week The Times reported that Iran has stepped up its cyberspace attacks on State Department officials. Iran’s hackers are said to be using a sophisticated form of computer espionage aimed at disrupting intelligence without going so far as to jeopardize the West’s lifting of economic sanctions.
In addition, Iran defied international agreements last month by testing a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. The U.S. complained about the violation but noted that it was not part of the deal aimed at preventing Iran from developing atomic weapons. And Iran’s supreme leader continues to affirm his “Death to America” attitude and has made clear that the nuclear agreement is the only diplomatic contact his country intends to have with Washington.
Clearly, Iran, like a boxer, is ramping up the confrontation with Washington, probing to see his opponent’s weaknesses and waiting to see if and where the counterpunch will land. So far, it’s a one-way contest.