Syed Mohammed Ali has an op-ed piece in the Daily Times of Pakistan about the Kian and the other detainees and US-Iran relations. It reads in part:
Iran has arrested four prominent American Iranian citizens during the past month. Those arrested by Iranian intelligence agencies include Haleh Esfandiari, the Middle East programme head at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. Dr Esfandiari was detained while she was visiting her sick mother in Iran. Her book, ‘Reconstructed Lives: Women and Iran’s Islamic Revolution’, which shows how the revolution impacted lives of women and how a few of them have been challenging the regime, is being cited as a proof of subversion by Iran’s Revolutionary Court. Besides Dr Esfandiari, Dr Kian Tajbakhsh was also arrested from his home in Tehran. Dr Kian Tajbakhsh taught urban studies at the New School in New York City before returning to a career in urban planning and academia back in his homeland. Dr Tajbakhsh has been working with several institutions including Iran’s own Municipalities and Social Security Organisations. He also served as an international research adviser for the Central European University’s International Policy Fellowships programme, funded by Open Society Institute. At the time of his arrest, Dr Tajbakhsh was preparing a regional workshop at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan, to examine the prospects of devolving power as a means of improving the lives of ordinary people.
This recent detention of academics by the Iranian authorities dramatically illustrates just how insecure threatened governments can become, resorting to targeting individuals in the hope of using them as scapegoats against other nations. It is even possible that Iranian hardliners may have instigated these arrests as a means of creating a new diplomatic crisis to torpedo pragmatist efforts within the Iranian government itself.