Op-ed: A Bipartisan Message to Iran
Thanks to President Obama for joining a unanimous Congress and signing S 2195 into law. This bill gives the president the authority to deny visas to United Nations ambassadors who are known terrorists, such as Iran’s recent nominee Hamid Aboutalebi, who was a participant in the 1979 hostage crisis. The government of the United States has thereby sent an unequivocal, bipartisan message that we will not tolerate the ongoing campaign of insult and antagonism from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Nominating Aboutalebi to be U.N. envoy is only the most recent in a long series of hostile actions proving that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s regime remains America’s enemy. This pattern began with the holding of 52 Americans for 444 days from 1979 to 1981, but it did not end there. It extends to Iranian complicity in the terrorist attacks on our armed forces in Beirut in 1983 and Saudi Arabia in 1996, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade.
Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism has been accompanied by a drumbeat of vicious rhetoric by Iranian leaders against the United States and our allies, in which America features as the Great Satan and Israel as the Little Satan — both of whom would, in Khamenei’s ideal world, cease to exist. And all the while, there have been additional provocations, including the ongoing detention of three American citizens, Pastor Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Robert Levinson. Aboutalebi’s nomination is just the latest outrage.
Regardless of their periodic promises of moderation, we must keep this pattern of hostility firmly in mind in any engagement with Iran’s leaders. They have been explicit in their goal: to persuade the world to relax its economic sanctions without interrupting their pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Just this week, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said, “We will witness the sanctions shattering in the coming months.”
This bill is a first step toward making it equally clear to Iran’s leaders that if they wish to enter into better relations with us, they should at the very least stop doing things like nominating one of the 1979 hostage takers to be their representative at the U.N.
Iran’s leaders may well try to challenge the denial of Aboutalebi’s visa, but this bill removes any ambiguity that might be the grounds for such a challenge and defines the grounds for denial. The rule of law matters, and this bill provides a clear legal basis for not allowing acknowledged terrorists to live in Manhattan with diplomatic immunity.
This legislation also addresses the larger issue of unfriendly nations using the United Nations as a bludgeon against America. It is not too hard to imagine a resurgent Taliban sending an al Qaeda operative to be Afghanistan’s representative or Bashar Assad sending a Hezbollah agent to represent Syria. In a year when we are being asked to increase our financial contribution to the U.N. while that institution has proven completely incapable of dealing with international crises from Syria to Ukraine (but can still handily churn out its annual condemnation of our ally Israel), it seems only prudent to look at ways to strengthen America’s position by giving the president greater discretion over who can and cannot come into our country under its auspices.
Washington has, with some justification, gained a reputation for being hopelessly mired in partisan gridlock. But it is nothing short of inspiring to find that when confronted with such blatant evidence of Iran’s virulent anti-Americanism, we can stand together as one in the defense of our national security. Credit is due not only to the president but also to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Col.), who introduced this bill in the House, and my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle, from Chuck Schumer to Lindsey Graham, for standing together and swiftly passing this legislation and sending it to the White House.
This combination of unequivocal support from both Congress and the president sends Iran—and other rogue nations—the clear signal that the United Nations is not a back door through which they can attack the United States of America.