Unable to bury the hatchet on Iran, the White House objected vehemently to Iran’s recent appointment of 46-year-old Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid Aboutalebi to U.N. ambassador because of his alleged past involvement with the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. U.S. officials insist that Aboutalebi was part of the hijacking and hostage-taking Nov. 4, 1979 that seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding 52 diplomats and embassy personnel hostage for 444 days. White House officials signaled April 11 that they would not issue Aboutalebi a visa to visit the New York City-based United Nations. Rejecting U.S. requests to withdraw Aboutalebi’s name, Iran sees no justification for U.S. actions. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pursuing this issue through anticipated legal channels at the U.N.,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, rejecting U.S. efforts to block Iran’s appointment.
U.S. objections violated U.N. rules requiring the U.N.’s host country, namely the U.S., to grant visas to diplomatic personnel. Whether or not Aboutalebi participated directly or indirectly with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s Islamic Revolution or any link to the Iran Hostage Crisis, the U.S. has no basis for making a scene 35 years after-the-fact. “We have no choice to substitute Mr. Aboutalebi,” said Iran’s semiofficial Mehr new agency. Aboutalebi denied having any direct involvement in either taking or holding U.S. hostages, insisting he only had a peripheral role in “translating and negotiation.” While the U.S. raises objections to Aboutalebi now, Iran’s Foreign Ministry insists he’s received past U.S. visas. Considered one of Iran’s top diplomats, Aboutalebi has served missions in Australia, Belgium and Italy and is Tehran’s first choice for U.N. ambassador.
Calling U.S. actions “in contravention of international law, the obligation of the host country and the inherent right of sovereign member-states to designate their representatives to the United Nations,” Iran’s spokesman to the U.N. mission Hamid Babaei, reject U.S. efforts.. Only if the U.S. can determine that Aboutalebi is a threat to national security or a spy can the U.S. object to diplomatic picks. Raising objections now throws a monkey wrench into ongoing nuclear diplomacy, where the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany have worked feverishly toward getting concessions on Iran’s nuclear program. Making a big deal about of Abouttalebi only hurts the P5+1 efforts to win over Tehran on its nuclear program. Whether or not the Reagan administration rejected past Iranian U.S. diplomats, the White House has too much riding on building new relations with Iran.
Ripping Secretary of State John Kerry for numerous foreign policy blunders, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) itemized April 8 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Obama’s foreign policy failures. Picking a battle with Iran over a 35-year-old dispute goes to the heart of the White House’s lack of common sense when it comes to foreign policy. Whether in Libya, Syria, Iran and more recently Ukraine, Obama can’t boast of too many foreign policy successes. Raising objections to Iran’s U.N. ambassador pick is bound to have more fallout. Dredging up the aborted Iranian hostage rescue April 24-25, 1980 AKA Operation Eagle Claw, has no relevance today other than uncovering festering wounds with Iran. Whatever happened in the past, including the Iran Hostage Crisis, only impedes today’s progress on Iran’s nuclear program and attempt to reset diplomatic relations.
Threatening to tank P5+1 efforts to avert a possible war with Iran over its nuclear program, blocking Iran’s U.N. ambassador makes no sense and probably isn’t legal. Whatever happened 35 years ago, Aboutalebi has more than proved himself with successful work in many foreign lands. U.S. officials “can’t get no satisfaction” with Iran, only starting from scratch to build new relations. Blocking Aboutalebi from getting a visa only turns back the clock on U.S. relations with Iran. If Kerry and the State Department get low marks for foreign policy with Obama’s critics, it’s not entirely partisan. With over 150,000 dead in Syria, millions of refugees, there’s much criticism to go around. Allowing enemies to cross red lines with impunity, whether or not in Syria, Ukraine or anywhere else, opens the door to more adventurism against U.S. interests around the planet.
Iran’s pick for U.N. ambassador neither threatens U.S. national security nor spies for the Persian nation, requiring the U.S. to issue a visa. If there’s any shenanigans with Aboutalebi, U.S. authorities can act accordingly. Preventing him from getting a visa turns current efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program on its head. However many Iranian diplomats were rejected in the Reagan administration, it’s another time-and-place today to avoid making another mistake. Allowing the P5+1 to get a nuclear disarmament deal with Tehran is all that matters now. Stubbornly insisting on blocking Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s U.N. pick can only boomerang on the U.S. White House officials should pick the right battle at the right time. Blocking Aboutalebi does nothing other than make Washington look petty and vindictive. Issuing the appropriate visa would be a step in the right direction.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of Onlinecolumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.