Under pressure to deny an entry visa to Iran’s president, the U.S. State Department says it must uphold its commitments to the United Nations under its arrangement as the host country.
Seven Republican senators sent a letter on Aug. 2 to U.S. President Joe Biden urging him to deny visas for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his delegation to attend the U.N. General Assembly in September. Raisi is scheduled to speak at the event.
A State Department spokesperson told JNS that it is “generally obligated under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement to facilitate travel” by U.N. member representatives. The spokesperson added: “We take our obligations under the U.N. Headquarters Agreement seriously. At the same time, the Biden administration has not and will not waver in protecting and defending all Americans against threats of violence and terrorism.”
The spokesperson said that visa records are confidential under U.S. law and couldn’t be discussed.
The senators wrote that “Raisi’s involvement in mass murder and the Iranian regime’s campaign to assassinate U.S. officials on American soil make allowing Raisi and his henchmen to enter our country an inexcusable threat to national security.”
The letter came weeks before the Justice Department announced charges against a purported member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for an assassination plot against former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton. Various reports indicated former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former State Department Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook have also been targeted for killing, along with current officials.
Raisi has been under U.S. sanctions since November 2019 for “complicity in serious human-rights violations,” during his time as judiciary chief. Washington accuses him of playing a leading role in mass executions in 1988 while he was chief prosecutor of the Tehran revolutionary court.
Raisi became president in June 2021. He missed last year’s General Assembly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A pre-recorded video of his address was played at the meeting instead.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also called on the Biden administration to deny the visas.
“The world’s leading state sponsor of terror attempted to assassinate American officials inside our country,” she told Fox News. “Under no circumstances should the Biden administration allow Raisi to set foot in our country.”
Under President Ronald Reagan, the United States denied a visa to PLO chairman Yasser Arafat to attend the 1998 U.N. General Assembly, citing national security concerns due to Arafat’s leadership of a terror organization. Former President Barack Obama turned down a visa request from the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations in 2014, and former President Donald Trump rejected a visa for Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in 2020.
Critics, however, say the national security concerns cited in such instances are not part of the agreement with the United Nations, but rather part of U.S. law that put the agreement into force. A U.N. agreement does allow the United States to limit the movement of visitors outside the area surrounding U.N. Headquarters in New York City.
A man identified as Hadi Matar, who is believed to have had direct contact with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps via social media, stabbed Salman Rushdie multiple times on Aug. 5 while the well-known Indian-born, British-American novelist was lecturing in western New York State. For more than 30 years, Rushdie has been a target of the Iranian regime with a fatwa (“religious edict”) for his death, placed by Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after Rushdie published the book The Satanic Verses.