Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari arrested for spying in Iran

Story here.

Issues for debate:

  1. Is there really enough anti-government activity in Iran right now that the government should be this worried?

  2. There’s no chance, is there, that Esfandiari actually was spying for the U.S. or for Israel, trying to foment revolution in Iran, or any of that?

  3. If the answers to 1 and 2 are no, then why did the Iranians do this? Are they trying to provoke a war?!

  4. What will the U.S. government do about this, since Esfandiari is an American citizen? (OTOH, why didn’t the government take action during the four months she was prevented from leaving Iran?)

  5. How (if at all) will the international community react?

[li]Maybe. The degree of support that religious hardliners once had, has badly eroded.[/li][li]Maybe. Who can say? It has happened.[/li][li]They could believe they are right. Or, they could be trying to create paranoia, fear & loathing of the West among their own people.[/li][li]The US Government likely lodged a protest during the 4 months, & may ask for support in getting her out. Or our President may be having trouble getting his eyes to focus again, & not care.[/li][li]The World Community will blame us. Which they always do, right or wrong, so it’s hard to care anymore.[/li][/ol]

If I were recruiting spies for CIA or Mossad, I would want somebody a bit more anonymous.

Maybe, but not always

  • sometimes you want a beacon

It is pretty much standard for a ‘Cultural Attache’ of any Embassy to be a spook

In this case I’m not sure, but she sure as heck would have reported on what she had seen - even if she did not know that she was being debriefed.

From their point of view she is Iranian

  • they will probably hang her like the poor sod from The Observer (a UK Sunday)

It is a bit daft as known ‘telephone lines’ are quite useful

From memory there are about 500,000 Iranians in the USA, doing very well, I rather wonder how many would like to ‘return’. My guess is very few.

[QUOTE=Bosda Di’Chi of Tricor]
[li]The World Community will blame us. Which they always do, right or wrong, so it’s hard to care anymore.[/li][/QUOTE]
Oh bull.

That was Iraq and Saddam.

I stand corrected - thanks.

They change one damn letter and try and pretend they are an entirely different country.

Let’s bomb them anyway. :wink:

Update: Esfandiari has been charged with “seeking to topple the ruling Islamic establishment.”

Update: There are now three Iranian-Americans charged with espionage and Condi Rice calls the charges “a perversion of the rule of law.”

When the pot calls the kettle black, the pot is not necessarily wrong.

I think some people in the Iranian government are trying to sabotage any possibility of improved relations with the “Great Satan”. Kidnapping and imprisoning the innocent citizens of another country is a good way to start a war.

And for our part, Bush has authorized the CIA to try to destabilize Iran’s government.

But, given that level of hostility and suspicion on both sides, why, I wonder, have the two countries started direct talks for the first time in 27 years?

It’s always extremely hard to interpret actions like this from the outside. There are so many potential reasons for this action. For example:

  • The Iranian government could be cracking down to create a chilling effect and scare people away from anti-government activities. For those purposes, it hardly matters if the person arrested is guilty or not.

  • There could be pressure from hardliners inside the Iranian government to institute a brutal crackdown, and this is actually the ‘compromise’ action, meant to placate tha hardliners.

  • The person could actually be a spy. The U.S. certainly has spies of this sort in Iran - at least, if it’s even remotely competent it does. It should have. But given that this is the Bush administration, I wouldn’t take competence as a given.

  • This could be a tit-for-tat, just as the plucking of those British sailors was a tit-for-tat for the detention of Iranian Quds-force operatives in Iraq.

  • It could be part of a bigger geopolitical came to stir anti-American sentiment. Ill-advised perhaps, but the Iranian leadership is not exactly composed of rocket scientists.

  • It could be an attempt to rally the Iranian people - if they can be truly convinced that the person is an American spy, it might build support for the Iranian government.

I imagine there are dozens of other possibilities.

As for why the U.S. and Iran are talking now, who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than we know about. Maybe the U.S. has got some dirt on Iran and is using it as leverage, or vice versa. The intelligence world is tough to get a handle on in the best of times.

From The Nation:

Hmmm…the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been described as “a State within a State”.

Perhaps *they * are the ones, solely, behind this.

Wreck communications & “poisoned wells” (sic) just before major talks, Bristish sailors siezed, border incidents…all well within the IRG’s capabilities.

Update: Esfandiari has been released on bail. It’s not clear why, or whether she will be allowed to leave Iran.