President Trump and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran have made no secret of their mutual contempt, raising fears of possible armed confrontation and doubts about the nuclear agreement reached under Mr. Trump’s predecessor.
Equally uncertain are the fates of at least seven people in Iran, five of them American citizens. Four were imprisoned after the nuclear accord took effect and relaxed sanctions against Iran in exchange for its verifiable guarantees of peaceful nuclear work.
Relatives of the imprisoned and their advocates have been speaking out, frustrated and wondering how Mr. Trump will deal with the problem. As a candidate, he promised to resolve the prisoner issue but since the inauguration has said little about it.
“I’m trying to reach out to everyone I can to help,” said Babak Namazi, whose father, Baquer Namazi, 80, a former Unicef official, and brother, Siamak, 45, a businessman and advocate of stronger Iranian ties with the United States, are among the Americans languishing in prison.
“Every day that goes by, my concern for my father and Siamak increases,” Mr. Namazi said this week in a telephone interview from Dubai, where he lives. He expressed particular anxiety about his father, who has a heart ailment, saying that an Iranian prison cell was “no place for an aging old man.”
Last month, on the anniversary of the elder Mr. Namazi’s imprisonment, Unicef exhorted the Iranian authorities to release him. “After a lifetime of humanitarian service, he has earned a peaceful retirement,” a Unicef statement said.
Mr. Trump has frequently railed against the nuclear agreement, describing it as a giveaway to Iran. He also vowed as a candidate to bring home Robert Levinson, an American who has been missing in Iran for 10 years.
The Iranian authorities, who have claimed ignorance about Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts, are holding at least four American citizens of Iranian descent and two permanent residents of the United States. No official talks are known to be underway about releasing them.
But Mr. Trump has made clear that he will not pay what he says amounts to ransom, which the Obama administration was accused of doing after the Iranians released five Americans in January 2016, when the nuclear agreement entered into force.