April 1 2014
Unfortunately, it’s not an April Fool’s joke that Iran is sending as its new ambassador to the United Nations one of the militants who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days beginning in 1979.
The 1979 hostage crisis was one of the low points in U.S. prestige, not to mention the suffering of those held hostage and their families.
There is no way to see this appointment as anything but a finger in the eye of the United States. Iran is toying with us and with the president. As Tom Wilson writes over at the Commentary blog:
It should be obvious to most that Iran appointing a former hostage taker to be its ambassador to the UN is a hostile act. It certainly would be hard work to misconstrue it as a friendly one. Yet in the West politicians have been working hard to portray Rouhani’s regime as being if not friendly, then at least reasonable; open to discussion about its illegal nuclear program. The Europeans are desperate to lift sanctions so as to resume trade with Iran, the Obama administration is desperate to avoid the use of force in confronting the coming nuclear crisis.
The U.S. must grant Hamid Aboutalebi, the designated ambassador, a visa if he is to represent Iran at the United Nations. But does anybody seriously think the Obama State Department will refuse?
Bloomberg has reported:
Relations between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. and its allies are beginning to emerge from the deep freeze that began when the self-proclaimed Iranian students overrun the embassy and took the hostages. The State Department hasn’t responded to the visa application, according to an Iranian diplomat.
That’s one way of looking at U.S.-Iran relations: others would argue that far from emerging from the deep freeze relations between the two countries are now on a perilous course (for us) because the Obama administration is naive. Iran is on its way to having a nuclear bomb with little more than a lip service opposition from the Obama administration.
Bloomberg goes on:
A controversy over Aboutalebi’s appointment could spark demands on Capitol Hill and beyond during this congressional election year for the Obama administration to take the unusual step of denying a visa to an official posted to the UN. It also could hamper progress toward a comprehensive agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. and five other world powers are seeking to negotiate with Iran by July 20.
So it’s just an election-year hitch if anyone in Congress objects to Aboutalebi’s visa? Not worth preventing the U.S. and “five other world powers” from inking a meaningless pact with Iran?
Former hostage Barry Rosen, a press attache, who was blindfolded and held at gunpoint, recognizes that it would be "an outrage" and "a disgrace" if Washington grants this visa:
"It may be a precedent but if the president and the Congress don't condemn this act by the Islamic Republic, then our captivity and suffering for 444 days at the hands of Iran was for nothing,” Rosen said. “He can never set foot on American soil."
Because the Obama administration is so eager for some kind of agreement, however meaningless, with the Iranian regime, it is likely that Aboutalebi will set foot on American soil.
Not giving Aboutalibi a visa would require the kind of hardball the administration doesn't employ with foreign countries. In the report on Rosen, Fox explains:
Under existing U.N. agreements, it appears that the White House may have its hands tied in trying to stop Aboutalebi from representing the Islamic Republic of Iran. The U.N.-U.S. host country agreement generally only allows the U.S. government to reject a diplomat's visa if the subject presents a national security risk to the United States. Sources say officials are exploring their options on whether it could be legal to bar Aboutalebi.
Still, if the negotiations are serious, wouldn't this be a good time to send Iran a signal that we, too, are serious?
If not giving Aboutalibi a visa would be a setback for negotiations, how well are our diplomats doing in getting concessions from Iran anyway?
It is easy to complain that President Obama just isn't tough enough. Thomas Sowell proposes an even more interesting than naivete: that President Obama, who proclaimed himself a citizen of the world in Berlin, regards himself as more a president of the world, for which office there isn't (yet) an election, than president of the United States, which was a tempting possibility for him in 2008.
The Iranians must not be able to believe their luck.