Trump Comments on Obama’s Alleged Citizenship Favor for Iranian Elite

July 3, 2018 Updated: October 5, 2018

President Donald Trump has responded to comments from a prominent Iranian official who accused the Obama administration of sweetening its Iran nuclear deal by granting American citizenship to thousands of Iranians, including relatives of officials.

“Just out that the Obama Administration granted citizenship, during the terrible Iran Deal negotiation, to 2,500 Iranians – including to government officials. How big (and bad) is that?” Trump stated in a July 3 tweet.

The claim was recently made by Hojjat al-Islam Mojtaba Zolnour, chairman of Iran’s parliamentary nuclear committee and a member of its national security and foreign affairs committee.

When Obama was negotiating the Iran deal, “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 in an interview with Iranian newspaper Etemad, published on June 26. “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.”

Zolnour, who was a deputy representative of the Supreme Leader to the Revolutionary Guard during the Iran deal negotiations, said he didn’t know who the officials were and whether if they were only from the current Iranian administration of President Hassan Rouhani.

“Perhaps, they were also non-governmental officials of the current administration,” he said. “We haven’t received any expert opinion yet and any situation among these officials is possible.

“I am all for transparency and believe that it has to be announced which of these officials’ children live in the United States and are residents or citizens. Especially given the fact that about 30 to 40 of them are studying abroad and the rest are enjoying life with [Iranian] people’s money. All of this has to come to light.”

The U.S. State Department declined to comment. “We’re not going to comment on every statement by an Iranian official,” a spokesperson told Fox News. The Department of Homeland Security also declined to comment.

Former Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf dismissed the allegation as “made up.”

A month ago, Iranian Voice of America journalist Ali Javanmardi started a petition asking Trump to deport children of Iranian officials.

“We, signatories of this petition, kindly request you to issue an order to deport the children of the high ranking officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran who have entered the U.S. in different ways,” the descriptions states. “Children of those who burn the U.S. flag and chant ‘Down to the United States’ slogans every day do not deserve to live in the U.S. and enjoy life and freedom in this country.”

The petition has garnered more than 115,000 signatures.

Javanmardi didn’t respond to a request for a comment.

While Zolnour mentioned citizenships, it would have been more likely for the Obama administration to have offered permanent residency (green cards), which provide a path to future naturalization.

More than 13,100 people born in Iran received green cards in 2015 and another nearly 13,300 in 2016, according to the Department for Homeland Security data. In 2015, over 10,300 Iranians became naturalized citizens with more than 9,500 in 2016.

The Iran deal was negotiated by the administration of former President Barack Obama and enshrined cessation of many sanctions against Iran in exchange for postponing its nuclear program for 10 to 15 years and giving up most of its enriched uranium.

The deal was promoted by Obama as “the best option” to (temporarily) keep Iran from wielding nuclear arms. Beyond that, Obama painted a picture of an Iran “rejoining the community of nations” upon being granted sanctions relief.

Yet Iran has been reported to have gone in the opposite direction, announcing a 150 percent increase in its military budget last year, developing long-range missiles, armed drones, and cyber-warfare capabilities—all while putting to use some of the up to $150 billion in assets abroad that had previously been frozen due to sanctions.

After President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal on May 8 and reimposed sanctions on Iran, some Iranian lawmakers responded by burning the American flag and chanting “death to America.”

Iran has insisted its nuclear program was not for weapons, but on April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented what he said were Iranian documents, obtained in a daring Israeli intelligence operation, that prove Iran had been developing nuclear weapons before the 2015 deal was signed with the United States, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union.

Additionally, a Senate report has charged that the Obama administration secretly, illegally, and unsuccessfully tried to give Iran access to the U.S. financial system to aid it in transferring $5.7 billion in assets out of an Omani bank.

The Obama administration had also derailed a yearslong law enforcement campaign against Hezbollah’s massive international drug trafficking operation, “even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States,” according to an in-depth Politico report last year.

Hezbollah is a terrorist organization based in Lebanon used by Iran as a proxy to fight Israel. The Iranian regime has vowed to eliminate Israel.

In December, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of how the Drug Enforcement Administration investigation was handled by Obama-era officials.

The United States lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and has long criticized it for funding terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis.

Update: The article was updated to include a comment of Former Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

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