Iran’s intelligence ministry said on Wednesday it arrested two European nationals for allegedly fomenting “insecurity” in the country, state media reported, as the EU pushes to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
The pair were accused of “organizing chaos and social disorder aimed at destabilizing [Iran]” in conjunction with foreign intelligence services, state TV cited the ministry as saying, without revealing their nationalities.
The arrests coincided with a visit to Tehran by the European Union’s Iran nuclear talks coordinator, Enrique Mora, who held talks with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Bagheri Kani, according to Iranian media.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran wanted U.S. sanctions lifted “with the observance of Iran’s red lines.”
“Negotiations are pursued … to reach a good, strong and lasting agreement,” he said on Twitter.
Talks to revive the 2015 accord have been on hold since March, chiefly over Iran’s insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran’s elite security force, from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
Then-U.S. President Donald Trump ditched the pact in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, prompting Tehran to retaliate by gradually violating the deal’s nuclear curbs.
Tehran’s refusal to back down from the FTO assignation demand has raised doubt about whether the nuclear impasse can be resolved. Washington has made it clear that it has no such plans, while also not ruling it out.
But Iran’s rulers ultimately want an end to sanctions, fearing a return of unrest among lower-income Iranians, whose protests in recent years have reminded leaders how vulnerable they can be to grassroots anger over economic hardship.
Presiding over an economy crippled by the U.S. sanctions, Iran’s clerical establishment has faced near-continuous protests by workers, teachers and government employees in recent months over unpaid wages, high unemployment, inflation exceeding 40% and mismanagement.