The White House plans to continue pursuing Iranian nuclear talks and a “diplomatic path forward,” even as they condemn Tehran’s “dangerous and despicable” alleged plot to kidnap a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.
An Iranian intelligence officer and three alleged members of an Iranian intelligence network were charged in New York with plotting to kidnap a prominent opposition activist and writer in exile and take her back to Tehran, authorities said this week.
The identities of the alleged victims were not released but Brooklyn-based Masih Alinejad confirmed that authorities had told her she was among the targeted victims.
The White House did not weigh in on the specific allegations of the plot Wednesday, but condemned the actions.
“We categorically condemn Iran’s dangerous and despicable reported plot to kidnap a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, we will forcefully defend U.S. citizens and U.S. interests,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. “That includes law enforcement actions like the one announced yesterday, as well as the actions the president has taken to defend U.S. forces in the region from Iranian backed militant groups.”
Psaki added that it also includes the administration’s “diplomatic effort to constrain Iran’s nuclear program,” calling it one of their “most important and urgent actions.”
“It is the actions to attempt to silence the voices of those peacefully working to address the situation both inside of Iran and outside of Iran that are appalling,” Psaki continued. “We will continue to speak out against that, and obviously, law enforcement authorities will take appropriate steps.”
Psaki was asked whether the plot would have any impact on the Biden Administration’s Iran nuclear talks.
“Well, it still remains,” she said. “We have never assessed Iran to be a good actor in the world, not just by this plot to kidnap a U.S. person who is residing in the U.S. but their active ties in the region, which we have had great concern about, and the president has taken retaliatory actions for,” Psaki said.
She added, though, that “at the same time, we still see it, we will continue to pursue those talks, pursue the diplomatic path forward.”
Iran has become more aggressive in recent years about seizing opposition journalists and dissidents abroad amid tensions over its tattered nuclear deal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.