The U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for Iran last week. While the changes were slight, they included additional warnings about arrests and detentions, with the latter possibly referring to the remaining two of the trio of imprisoned American hikers.
A previous version of the travel warning issued on March 23, 2010, and cached online here, includes this language:
Iranian authorities also have detained or imprisoned Iranian-American citizens on various charges, including espionage and posing a threat to national security.
The newest version of the travel warning, released on October 8, now includes “academics” in the category of those who may be denied the ability to leave the country and changes the reference to those subject to detention or imprisonment from “Iranian-American citizens” to simply “U.S. citizens.”
The new warning also adds the word “unjustly” before “detained and arrested.” This is perhaps a direct reference to the case of the remaining hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. Both are still imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges, while the third member of their hiking party, Sarah Shourd, was released last month.
The changed sentence reads (with my emphasis):
Iranian authorities also have unjustly detained or imprisoned U.S. citizens on various charges, including espionage and posing a threat to national security.
President Barack Obama praised Shourd’s release after more than a year in detention, and has called on Iran to release Bauer and Fattal since they “have committed no crime.”
The new warning was also amended to say that U.S. citizens — not just dual nationals — are sometimes denied access to the U.S. Interest Section in Tehran. While the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran, and therefore no embassy or consulate, Washington does maintain an Interests Section in the Swiss Embassy.
Thus, the additions of the word “unjustly” and that U.S. citizens are being denied access in the latest travel warning may well reflect the Obama administration’s position on the Iran’s legal system.
Also of note is the removal of the paragraph about dangers of the “large-scale demonstrations with sometimes violent outbreaks” that occurred for months after the disputed Iranian presidential election of June 2009. The Green opposition movement has been publicly subdued by a government crackdown in the wake of widespread protests against the election results, so such demonstrations no longer occur.