Iranian Officials Called ‘Hypocrites’ for Sending Their Families to Study and Work in ‘Great Satan’

By Patrick Goodenough | December 14, 2018 | 4:45 AM EST

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani both have close family members working or studying in the United States. (Photo: Iran Presidency)

( – Denouncing the “hypocrisy of the regime” in Tehran, the State Department’s special representative for Iran says it is “working on” the issue of relatives of senior regime officials living and studying in the country which the mullahs deride as the “great Satan.”

In a video posted on the department’s Persian-language Twitter feed this week, Brian Hook read out one of more than 5,000 questions which he said had been submitted by Iranians.

“Why doesn’t the United States revoke the visas or deport the relatives of the regime officials who live in the United States?” a questioner asked.

“I have to admit, this is another example of the hypocrisy of the regime,” Hook replied. “While regime officials chant, ‘Death to America,’ they send their families to the so-called ‘great Satan’ to live and study here – using the resources of the Iranian people.”

Hook said the administration was “working on” the issue, as it examined ways to prod the regime to change.

“I can tell you that we are working on it, and while I can’t discuss individual cases or internal policy deliberations, you can be sure that we are pursuing all options to pressure the corrupt hypocrites in your government to change their behavior.”

Among Iranians reported to be working or studying in the United States now – or to have done so in the past – are:

--A nephew of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (employed by an education company in New York);

--A daughter of Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani, and niece of Iran’s judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani (studying in Ohio);

--A son of Massumeh Ebteka, one of 12 Iranian vice-presidents, who gained notoriety in the U.S. as “Mary,” a spokeswoman for the radical students who seized the U.S. Embassy in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days (a doctoral student in Los Angeles);

--A nephew and a niece of another Iranian vice-president, Mohammad Bagheri Nobakht (teaching at George Washington University and UCLA respectively); and

--A son of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (who studied in New York before returning to Iran five years ago).

Zarif himself studied in Colorado and California, and his predecessor, Ali Akbar Salehi – now head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran – received a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT.

These Iranians resident in the U.S., past and present, have been identified in various reports in recent years, including an op-ed last October by Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior Iran analyst Tzvi Kahn.

Kahn highlighted the double standards at play, but also called for a cautious response from the administration.

While the State Department should maintain a roster of regime relatives working and studying in the U.S., he said, the government “should not visit the sins of the father upon the son.”

“One day, if they haven’t already, the children of Iranian leaders may come to see what so many protesters in Iran have repeatedly chanted over the past year: ‘America is not the enemy – the enemy is right here.’”

While offspring of regime stalwarts are working and studying in the U.S., the regime is currently incarcerating several American citizens or residents, and has not provided satisfactory answers about the fate of retired FBI agent Bob Levinson, who disappeared there almost 12 years ago.

In a recent open letter to Western governments and U.N. officials, relatives of Americans and others held or missing in Iran urged world leaders “to make the political cost for committing human rights violations so high that releasing our loved ones becomes advantageous to the Iranian authorities.”

Legislation passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House last spring imposes sanctions on Iranian officials deemed responsible for detaining Americans and other foreigners – and those officials’ immediate family members.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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