President Barack Obama’s administration granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians in 2015, including family members of government officials, while negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, a senior cleric and member of parliament claimed.
Hojjat al-Islam Mojtaba Zolnour made the allegations during an interview with the country’s Etemad newspaper, cited by the country’s Fars News agency, and reported by Fox News.
He claimed the citizenship status was conferred as a favor to senior Iranian officials linked to President Hassan Rouhani, and he further claimed the offer sparked a competition among Iranian officials over whose children would benefit from it.
Zolnour says the deal was made during negotiations for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was reached in July 2015.
President Donald Trump announced in May the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement.
‘When Obama, during the negotiations about the JCPOA, 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,’ Zolnour said.
‘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.’
The conservative Zolnour, who is in Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s inner circle, estimated that between 30 and 60 of these recipients were studying in the U.S.
Though Zolnour did not mention anyone by name, several 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.
There is no suggestion either of these people received citizenship in the wake of the Iranian nuclear deal. It’s also unclear if Zolnour meant citizenship or a green card.
The cleric’s claim could, in the U.S., fuel Republican complaints about the concessions made by the Obama administration during those negotiations – including not just sanctions relief, but the $1.7 billion payment supposedly tied to a legal settlement that coincided with the 2016 release of American prisoners.
In 2015, 13,114 people born in Iran were issued green cards, while 13,298 were issued one in 2016, according to the Department for Homeland Security. In 2015, 10,344 Iranians became naturalized, with a further 9,507 in 2016.
Asked about the cleric’s claim, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News: ‘We’re not going to comment on every statement by an Iranian official.’
Fox News analyst and former Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was skeptical of Zolnour’s allegation.
‘This sounds like totally made up BS,’ she said.
The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment to Fox News. A representative for Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also could not be reached for comment.
Since the U.S. withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal on May 8, the value of the rial has plunged to 90,000 against the dollar – double the government rate of 42,000 rials to the dollar.
Protests in the country are on the rise.
President Rouhani has warned Iran that it faces an ‘economic war’ with the U.S., but analysts have warned that hard-liners are likely behind the protests seeking to challenge the more moderate president.
The pressure is intense on Rouhani since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal. Since then, many international firms and oil companies have backed away from billion-dollar deals with Iran.
Obama is also under increased scrutiny since it was proven he attempted to assist the Iranian government in laundering billions of dollars.
A new Senate GOP-authored report alleges that top officials in the Obama administration secretly authorized Iran to convert assets to the U.S. dollar, even after the officials repeatedly assured Congress that no such financial transactions would take place under the 2015 nuclear deal.
The report states:
“Senior U.S. government officials repeatedly testified to Congress that Iranian access to the U.S. financial system was not on the table or part of any deal,” the report reads.
“Despite these claims, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, at the direction of the U.S. State Department, granted a specific license that authorized a conversion of Iranian assets worth billions of U.S. dollars using the U.S. financial system,” it continues.
“The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran.”
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
July 2nd, 2018