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Iran Arrests U.S. Resident for “Espionage”; Man Had Been Invited to Tehran by Iran’s VP

A Lebanese-born IT expert with U.S. permanent resident status has been detained in Iran and is being held as a spy despite being invited to the country by Iran’s vice president, according to Iranian news sources.

Nizar Zakka, whose LinkedIn page indicates that he lives in Washington, D.C., was invited to Tehran by the office of Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs to participate in a conference on sustainable development, according to the Lebanese news website NOWThe Wall Street Journal added (Google link) that he was scheduled to meet with several government ministers.

“Nizar Zakka has deep ties to the U.S. intelligence and military establishment,” a source told Iranian state broadcaster IRIB. The Mehr news agency alleged that Zakka’s American military and intelligence contacts refer to him as a “hidden treasure.”

“Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said on Monday the ministry had been discussing ways to combat foreign influence in the country as Tehran begins to implement a nuclear deal that will lift sanctions and open Iran to foreign businesses,” Reuters noted.

According to Reuters, Iran also arrested two Iranian journalists on Monday.

News of Zakka’s arrest first surfaced last week when it was reported that Iran had arrested Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi. Wall Street Journal Washington bureau chief Gerald Seib wrote Monday that “firms and individuals with American ties seem likely to be particular targets” for detention and arrest. Seib was detained by Iran for several days in 1987 on charges that he was Zionist spy, despite having come to Iran at the invitation of the government.

The targeting of American businessmen comes amid a call by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni to block American imports.

[Photo: ITU Pictures / Flickr ]