The presence of a man believed to be a United States citizen in Iran's nuclear negotiating team has led to controversy in Iranian media and on Twitter.
Social media users have criticized Mohammad Marandi, an advisor to the Iranian nuclear negotiations team in Vienna for making complacent comments about what may happen to Iran if the nuclear talks fail.
The Twitter account of reformist daily Sharq on December 28 quoted Marandi as having said: "What will happen if the UN resolutions against Iran are revived? We attach no value to the other side's ultimatums, because nothing is going to happen to us even if they pull out of the JCPOA and activate the trigger mechanism."
As part of the attacks on Marandi, Twitter users and some news websites in Iran said that Marandi is a US citizen so he should not be worried about the economic and other consequences of the JCPOA collapse.
Iranian investigative journalist and historian Hossein Dehbashi revealed on Twitter on December 25 that Marandi is a US citizen and questioned his presence in Iran’s diplomatic circle. Marandi in his response posted a picture on Twitter saying it shows him in Basij militia uniform when he was 16. He also said later that he was born in the United States, but he is not a US citizen or a green card holder. Dehbashi asked how come he can pay frequent visits to the United States.
Meanwhile, no one mentioned that if Marandi was born in the United States, then he is automatically a citizen.
According to Rouydad24 news website in Tehran, Mohammad Marandi was born in the US 1966. He is the son of Alireza Marandi who is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's family doctor. When he first came to Iran after his father was appointed Health Minister, Mohammad was only 13.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with Dr. Alireza Marandi, his personal physician, at the onset of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran, February 2020.
Mohammad Marandi has said that he did not speak Farsi when he came to Iran and he had a hard time at the Alavi High school, where most Iranian hardliners studied. This raises the question that his mother was not from Iran, but there is no public information about her. The headmaster of that school was Khamenei's Foreign Policy Chief Kamal Kharrazi who later became Iran's Foreign Minister under President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005).
Mohammad Marandi also accompanied former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's team during the nuclear negotiations from 2013 to 2015 although he was not part of the team. Zarif has officially praised him for his services as a liaison with Western media. In those years, Marandi appeared frequently on Iran's Press TV as well as on major US networks defending Tehran's hardliners.
According to Rouydad24 he also played a part in the negotiations by inviting some US public diplomacy players to Iran. Wat they did in Iran is not known. The hardline daily Kayhan at the time charged that Marandi's World Studies Center "secretly brought US public diplomacy officials to Iran." The daily called the center "an office similar to a branch of the Iranian Foreign Ministry."
Marandi was the dean of Tehran University's World Studies Center. Some call it the Faculty of World Studies. However, academics in Tehran say the center no longer exists. That could explain Marandi's official title as "Former head of the university's World Studies Center."
According to Rouydad24, Mohammad Marandi is a US citizen. The website has quoted him as saying that when living in an affluent neighborhood in Ohio he was subjected to racism as he was not considered "white."
Marandi has told US media that he is a big fan of the NFL and supported the Dallas Cowboys when he was in America.
Under President Ahmadinejad, Marandi used to explain the populist ultraconservative President's ideas on major US channels and often claimed that Ahmadinejad's controversial statements were not properly translated into English.
According to Rouydad24, during his TV appearances, Marandi proved to have access to confidential information in cases such as the seizure of foreign oil tankers by Iranian forces.
The website questioned Iranian officials’ double standard about dual nationals, and quoted Dehbashi as saying, "In the previous government being a dual national was considered a bad thing but now no one protests to a US citizen's placement in the nuclear negotiations team." Marandi has subsequently "blocked" Dehbashi and others who asked questions about his US citizenship and US passport, and only answered that he does not have a social security number in the United States.
According to Rouydad 24, Marandi repeatedly introduced himself as a US citizen in an interview with US Guernica Magazine in 2008. "As a child, I used to feel much more American than Iranian. Like everyone else at school, I pledged allegiance to the flag. However, after returning to Iran, sadly, I learned about a very different America, an America that most Americans have no idea exists. For the first couple of years this was hard to accept, and it was really painful in some ways."