As Iran’s May 2017 presidential election draws near, Asgharzadeh believes this issue could be a winning card that the government needs to take advantage of. Yet, he said, “Unfortunately, the Rouhani administration is weak in this regard. There were violations in terms of dual citizenships in the government of [former President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad that the Rouhani administration should use to make serious decisions, and not let the issue turn into a lever for pressuring the government.”
Asgharzadeh believes the hard-liners’ attitude toward the issue of dual nationals stems from a political approach that has culminated in the matter becoming security-related. He told Al-Monitor, “One of Rouhani’s slogans was to free the country from the [prevailing] security atmosphere. Unfortunately, despite his victory in the foreign policy arena, his domestic strategy for resolving this atmosphere has not been as transparent. If the judicial atmosphere is turned into one of security, the Principlists will naturally have the upper hand and can engage public opinion with issues that are not real or accurate — issues that frighten society. For instance, they can say that dual nationals are spies, have no sense of national interest and are opportunistic people.”
Another aspect of this controversy are the ordinary Iranians who hold dual nationality and end up being arrested on charges of spying and other security-related allegations — individuals such as Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his elderly father Bagher, Iranian-Austrian businessman Kamran Ghaderi and former US Marine Amir Hekmati.
Asgharzadeh said the citizenships of these individuals are purely legal and cannot be viewed as solely positive or negative. “It may be that their presence in foreign countries is very important in terms of cultural issues, Iran’s position and introducing our country to the international community. During the sanctions era, Iran was under a great deal of pressure, but these dual nationals directed suitable lobbies outside the country and had a great deal of impact,” he said.