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Friday 18 November 2016
At least a dozen senior officials who were part of the negotiating team that conducted talks with the west regarding the Islamic Republic's nuclear program were arrested by Iranian authorities on espionage charges, Channel 2 citing an Iranian member of parliament reported Friday.
Iranian MP Husein Al Haj said earlier this week that some of those arrested had dual citizenship but he did not disclose their identities or nationalities.
Government controlled media in Iran did not comment or acknowledge the arrests but Arab media outlets have been covering the story quite extensively.
Iranian authorities earlier in the year had carried out a similar arrest against another member of the negotiating unit, claiming the suspect was a "spy who had infiltrated the nuclear team."
The suspect was later released on bail but was still under investigation at the time, former Iranian minister of intelligence Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said at a news conference on August 28.
Ejei was responding to a question about an Iranian lawmaker's assertion that a member of the negotiation team who had dual nationality had been arrested on espionage charges.
Tehran's prosecutor general on Aug. 16 announced the arrest of a dual national he said was linked to British intelligence, but made no mention of the person being in the nuclear negotiations team.
Earlier in August, Iran executed an Iranian nuclear scientist who had been detained since 2010 when he returned home from the United States, after a court convicted him of spying for Washington.
Mohseni Ejei said a court had sentenced Shahram Amiri to death and the sentence had been upheld by Iran's Supreme court, according to state news agency IRNA.
Amiri, a university researcher working for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2009, and later surfaced in the United States. But he returned to Iran in 2010 and received a hero's welcome before being arrested.
A US official said in 2010 that Washington had received "useful information" from Amiri.
Iran had accused the CIA of kidnapping Amiri. US officials said Amiri had been free to come and go as he pleased, and that he may have returned because of pressures on his family in Iran.
Formally known as the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the negotiated agreement by world powers and the Islamic Republic was signed in July of 2015, amounting to one of the most significant multilateral policy achievements reached in several decades.
The JCPOA was a culmination of a two-year diplomatic effort in which the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, sought to end a twelve-year crisis over Iran's suspicious nuclear work.
The JCPOA allows Iran to retain much of its nuclear infrastructure, and grants it the right to enrich uranium on its own soil. But the deal also requires Iran to cap and partially roll back that infrastructure for ten to fifteen years, and grants the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, managed access to monitor that program with intrusive inspections.
In exchange, the governments of Britain, France, Russia, China, the US and Germany have agreed to lift all UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic— once Iran abides by a set of nuclear-related commitments.
Israel roundly opposes the agreement, saying it does little to deter Iran from reigniting its nuclear ambitions in the near future.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbied hard to scuttle the deal last year, going so far as to speak in from the United States Congress without the formal invitation of President Barack Obama.
Newly elected US President Donald Trump has referred to the deal as one of the worst ever negotiated in history, but it remains unclear what action he may take concerning the agreement.
Reauters and Michael Wilner contributed to this article.