A senior cleric and member of parliament claimed the Obama administration granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians while negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, Fox News reports.
Hojjat al-Islam Mojtaba Zolnour, chairman of Iran’s parliamentary nuclear committee and a member of its national security and foreign affairs committee, made the allegations during an interview with the country’s Etemad newspaper, cited by the country’s Fars News agency.
He claimed the move was a favor to senior Iranian officials linked to President Hassan Rouhani, and he alleged the move created competition among Iranian officials over whose children would benefit from the scheme, according to Fox News.
He claimed that the deal happened during the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiations, which was ultimately reached in July 2015. Congress had a chance to pass a bill that would veto the deal but couldn’t get enough votes to make it happen. The vote was mostly for show anyway because President Obama would have vetoed the bill if it made it to his desk. President Donald Trump announced in May that the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement.
The Iranian official made some specific claims, saying “when Obama, during the negotiations about the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], decided to do a favor to these men, he granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians and some officials started a competition over whose children could be part of these 2,500 Iranians.”
A State Department spokesperson responded to questions about the claims by saying “we’re not going to comment on every statement by an Iranian official.”
Fox News analyst and former Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf casted doubt on the Iranian official’s allegation. “This sounds like totally made up BS,” she said.
The Iranian official continued his thoughts by saying that “if today these Iranians get deported from America, it will become clear who is complicit and sells the national interest like he is selling candies to America.” He added that “it should be stated exactly which children of which authorities live in the United States and have received citizenship or residency.”
Between 30 and 60 were studying in the U.S., Zolnour believes, thinking that this happened while the rest of them were working in the country “against our national interests.”
Zolnour only gave figures but never named names. If his claims are to be believed, some details can help narrow down the possible Iranian officials who could have benefitted from this alleged transaction. Many children of current and former Iranian officials live in the United States, including Ali Fereydoun, whose father Hossein Fereydoun is the brother of and special aide to Rouhani; and Fatemeh Ardeshir Larijani, whose father Ali Larijani is speaker of parliament, Fox News reports, making sure to specify that there is no hard evidence suggesting these people were involved in such a deal.
In 2015, 13,114 people born in Iran were issued green cards, while 13,298 were issued one in 2016, according to figures from the Department for Homeland Security. In 2015, 10,344 Iranians became naturalized, with a further 9,507 in 2016.
The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment. A representative for Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also could not be reached for comment.
Ordinary Iranians may feel angry at Tehran’s elite over the claims.
“Many ordinary Iranians are surprised and feel betrayed that children of the regime officials live and work in the U.S.,” Saeed Ghasseminejad, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based research institute, told Fox News. “The regime officials chant death to America but send their children to the U.S., away from the hell they have created in Iran over the past four decades,” he said.
Ghasseminejad told Fox News some Iranians have called for their deportation from America. “Iranians don’t understand why the U.S. government allows the offspring of the regime officials to live in the U.S., while the U.S. has introduced a travel ban for ordinary Iranian citizens and many Americans are imprisoned in Iran.” He concluded by saying “that is why many Iranians on social media have been urging the U.S. government to deport the children of the regime officials.”
Iran is one of seven countries included in Trump’s embattled travel ban that was recently upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision.
By: Adam Sabbatasso