July 26, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7588

Iranian Sources: Obama Administration Granted Green Cards, U.S. Citizenship To Senior Iranian Regime Officials

July 26, 2018
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 7588

On July 3, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the Obama administration had given U.S. citizenship to 2,500 Iranians, among them government officials, as part of understandings in the bilateral nuclear talks. The issue of U.S. citizenship for Iranians was reported on in the past by Iranian elements on both sides of the Iranian political spectrum.

In February 2016, against the backdrop of the Trump administration's preventing citizens from certain Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the U.S., the reformist website reported that then-Secretary of State John Kerry had ordered green cards issued to 2,800 Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian citizens – among them, it said, senior Iranian regime officials and associates of the government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani. Amadnews added that according to its sources, this was done so that the Iranian officials would be able to control the Iranian assets that were frozen in the U.S.  

In June 2018, Mojtaba Zolnour, head of the Nuclear Committee of the Majlis National Security Committee, who is known for his criticism of Iran's pragmatic camp and of the Rohani government, demanded an investigation to determine who among the 2,500 Iranians he said had been granted U.S. citizenship were associates and relatives of associates of the Rohani government.

It should be noted that in 2015, Secretary of State Kerry promised Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that U.S. immigration laws passed by the Obama administration in 2011 preventing anyone who had visited Iran from entering the country, among them businessmen, would not be negatively impacted by the laws and would receive special waivers to enter the country. See Kerry's letter to Foreign Minister Zarif as published by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Sec. Kerry Letter to Zarif Regarding Visa Waiver Reform; see also the letter by members of Congress to Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson expressing "deep concern" over this move.

The following are the main points of the article by Amadnews and of the statements by Mojtaba Zolnour, head of the Nuclear Committee of the Majlis National Security Committee.

Amadnews: Obama Administration Agreed To Grant Green Cards To 2,800 Iranians

On February 17, 2016, the Iranian reformist website Amadnews[1] stated that a secret document of the nuclear understandings between the U.S. and Iran sets out the Obama administration's agreement to grant green cards to 2,800 individuals with Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian citizenship, on direct orders from Secretary of State John Kerry. The following is the translation of the Amadnews report:

"A knowledgeable source has informed Amadnews that one of the secret documents of the nuclear understanding between Iran and the American administration of Barack Obama [sets out] the granting of a green card to 2,800 individuals with Iranian, Iraqi, or Syrian citizenship, with the consent of the government of Iran  and on direct orders by then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

"The granting of a green card to these 2,800 people is aimed at keeping billions of dollars of the Iranian Republic's funds in America.

"Furthermore, the mosque in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles was recognized as a huge Iranian investment in America.

"The exposure of these documents, that constituted a precondition for the JCPOA, prompted President Trump's desire to confiscate Iran's great fortune and prevent those with Iranian passports from entering America.

"This understanding between the Islamic Republic [of Iran] and President Obama caused Iranian officials to claim that [President] Trump's move to temporarily prevent those with Iranian passports from entering America violated the JCPOA.

"Iran concluded with the Obama administration that instead of billions of dollars belonging to the Iranian public being sent back to Iran and being invested in development and construction there, they would remain in the U.S. financial system and would be registered there in the names of Iranian officials and in the name of some IRGC commanders, and would be invested in certain investments [in the U.S.] provided that permanent [American] residency would also be given to these people.

"The new American administration, led by Donald Trump, had no intention of returning this huge fortune to Iran. He could prevent these people from entering [the U.S.] and take this national fortune out of Iran's hands.

"Apparently, the noise and uproar by the pro-Iran lobbying organization NIAC, headed by Trita Parsi, is connected to this matter, because [NIAC] has received several million dollars in order to lead and administer these protests against Donald Trump's scheme [i.e. preventing citizens of seven Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the U.S.]

"The disagreements among Iranian officials over the scope of the Iranian fortune blocked in America prior to the implementation of the JCPOA, as well as 'the need for obtaining the nuclear agreement' in order to regain Iran's fortune, are among the issues that were extensively disputed in the media and by influential figures during and after the signing of the JCPOA.

"These numbers differed widely until, on July [17,] 2015, the Tabnak website published an article titled 'What Is the Total Sum of Iran's Funds Blocked [In the U.S.] – $29 Billion or $130 Billion?' This article expressed criticism, stating: 'What is the total sum of our blocked fortune, that is meant to be regained by Iran following the implementation of the JCPOA? Why does everyone involved in this matter give a different sum? Why are there so many statements and disagreements, by both domestic and foreign elements, on the matter of these blocked funds?'[2]

"The source [that provided Amadnews with the information about this affair] concluded by stating that several months before the end of the Obama administration, some holders of an Iranian, Iraqi, or Syrian passport had managed to obtain an American green card as a group and to purchase homes in Los Angeles valued at over $2 million [apiece].

"The source further noted that the child of Masoumeh Ebtekar, head of the Department of Environment [who was spokeswoman for the Iranian students in the 1979 taking of hostages at the U.S. Embassy and vice president under Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, and who is today vice president to Rohani] was one of these 2,800 people."[3]

Mojtaba Zolnour, Head Of Nuclear Committee Of Majlis National Security Committee: Who In The Iranian Regime Was Granted U.S. Citizenship?

On June 26, 2018, the Iranian daily Etemaad published an interview with Mojtaba Zolnour, head of the Nuclear Committee of the Majlis National Security Committee, in which he said: "President Rohani's son has citizenship in three countries: Canada, the UK, and Iran. Is [President Rohani] capable of focusing domestically and of advancing Iranian goods? At the time of the JCPOA talks, Obama decided to treat the [Iranian] gentlemen and give 2,500 of them citizenship. Some of the gentlemen and senior officials started to compete to see who of their sons would be among these 2,500. If these people are expelled from America, it will be clear who they are in contact with and why they are selling the national interests for American sweets.

"I do not know who these people are [among the 2,500 who he said were granted American citizenship]; perhaps some of them are not members of the current government. We have not yet professionally examined this matter, and these people may turn out to be from every stream in Iran. There must be transparency. It should be stated explicitly who of the sons of Iranian regime officials is living in America, or has received American citizenship."[4]


[1] was involved in exposing corruption in the Iranian regime and exposing Iranian regime activity in Syria. See, for example, MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6814, IRGC Using 'Mahan Air' Civilian Airliners To Hide Transfer Of Weapons And Fighters To Syria, Yemen, March 6, 2017. The website was founded by journalists who had been arrested during the Green protests following the June 2009 presidential election. According to them, they are continuing the Green protest movement, and are active in exposing corruption in the Iranian regime in order to help the people obtain its rights.

[2] The Tabnak article states that Iran Central Bank governor Valiollah Seif assessed the Iranian fortune blocked by the U.S. at $23 billion, while President Obama put it at $150 billion; the article also quotes various estimates in the range between these two figures. Tabnak (Iran), July 17, 2015.

[3], February 17, 2018.

[4], June 26, 2018.

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