This week the U.S. Department of State issued an update to their travel warning which included a specific warning to those Americans that also hold Iranian citizenships. According to the warning, Iran is seeking to target and arrest people with dual citizenships. Here is a portion of the updated travel warning:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Iran. This replaces the Travel Warning for Iran dated March 14, 2016, to reiterate and highlight the risk of arrest and detention of U.S. citizens, particularly dual national Iranian-Americans. Foreigners, in particular dual nationals of Iran and Western countries including the United States, continue to be detained or prevented from leaving Iran. U.S. citizens traveling to Iran should very carefully weigh the risks of travel and consider postponing their travel. U.S. citizens residing in Iran should closely follow media reports, monitor local conditions, and evaluate the risks of remaining in the country.
Iranian authorities continue to unjustly detain and imprison U.S. citizens, particularly Iranian-Americans, including students, journalists, business travelers, and academics, on charges including espionage and posing a threat to national security. Iranian authorities have also prevented the departure, in some cases for months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons. U.S. citizens traveling to Iran should very carefully weigh the risks of travel and consider postponing their travel. U.S. citizens residing in Iran should closely follow media reports, monitor local conditions, and evaluate the risks of remaining in the country.
The updated travel warning could appear to be related to the recent payment of $400 million dollars which was flown to Iran during a hostage exchange. After all, targeting dual citizens could offer them an opportunity to gather intelligence as well as a new bargaining chip. Even though the US government denies that the payment was a ransom, the three Americans claim they were not able to leave until the flight with the money arrived. The US government has taken the stance that the money was paid to Iran from a debt that was owed to the government since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The timing of the payment and the testimony of the witnesses complicates the issue. Many, like the New York Times attribute the “random story” to a chance to bash the Obama administration and Iran over the nuclear deal. No matter what the truth is about the $400M dollars, either an owed debt payment or hostage ransom, Iran has always been suspicious of people with dual citizenships. Is it a coincidence that the new travel warning was issued after Iran recently received the $400 million dollars?