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State Department Blacklists New Iranian Ambassador

hamid aboutalebi

Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran’s UN ambassador-designate

For months, the State Department has stalled on approving the visa for the incoming Iranian ambassador to the UN, Hamid Aboutalebi.  In the meantime, the departing ambassador has long left New York and there is no chief delegate representing Iran (that nation announced Aboutalebi’s appointment last January).  Since State will make no substantive statement other than to say it uses due diligence before approving such visas, others are left to speculate.  Here is what the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran wrote:

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned that the reason for the months–long delay may be the diplomat’s possible role  in the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran…

…In 1980 Aboutalebi, along with Abbas Abdi, a student instrumental in the US Embassy takeover, traveled to Algeria to invite representatives from several “liberation movements” to attend a meeting in Tehran. The invited groups included the Palestine National Liberation Movement (Fatah), Polisario, The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, The Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe, Shias from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Lebanon’s Amal Movement.

…Aboutalelbi denied involvement in the U.S. embassy takeover. He was not in Tehran at the time, he was quoted as saying. He said his only reason for being at the occupied embassy later on was to serve as a translator.

“For the past 15 years, I have been an ambassador to many Western countries that are very close to the US, from Europe to Australia, and have always been dealing with the West,” Aboutalelbi said. “Even in 1994 when I traveled to the US as a member of our country’s delegation at the UN General Assembly…no questions ever come up.”

Aboutalebi added: “The fact is that at the time of the embassy takeover on November 4 [1979] I wasn’t even in Tehran to know about this or to participate in it or to be present, or for my name to be involved in this; I was in Ahvaz when I learned about what had happened.

“A while later, when I came to Tehran, one day Martyr [Rahman] Dademan sent me a message through another war commander by the name of Shahid Zaker, saying that they needed someone for French translation.  I accepted…

“For example, I was the translator at the press conference when they released female employees and African Americans on humanitarian basis.”

My guess is that the Obama administration, which is exquisitely sensitive to allowing the Israel Lobby any opening to attack its Iran policy, is scared stiff that Aipac will circulate photos of Aboutalebi in 1979 with his suspicious scruffy beard and link him to Iranian terrorism.  It would rather delay approving the visa in hopes Iran will get the message and approve someone who never stepped foot in the U.S. embassy in 1979.

Of course this is chicken-shit way to pursue foreign policy.  But it’s standard operating procedure for this administration, which never goes out of its way to stand for a principle when a lower common denominator is possible.

By the way, if we want to render treif foreign diplomats and leaders with unsavory pasts (not that Aboutalebi has one), perhaps Obama can explain all those visits from ex-terrorists Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir who actually had British and Arab blood on their hands (the King David Hotel bombing, Deir Yassin massacre, Count von Bernadotte assassination, etc).  It seems to me that our moral vision is quite selective.  When we need a former terrorist we’re more than happy to oblige a visit or a visa.  When we don’t, we let them hang in the wind for months, violating diplomatic protocol.  Shame.


{ 4 comments… add one }
  • muhammad March 30, 2014, 6:15 PM

    Abutalebi was not among the students that overran the US embassy in Tehran in November 1979. All the leading members of Student Followers of Imam Line, the Islamic leftist group that led the operation, are mentioned and described here:

    link to pbs.org

    Dadman, mentioned in the piece, was a true Iranian patriot who served his nation with distinction, and died in an air-crash in May 2001.

    • Richard Silverstein March 30, 2014, 6:38 PM

      Thanks Muhammad. Aboutalebi’s Wikipedia page contains false information unfortunately. I hope someone will correct it.

      • SimoHurtta March 31, 2014, 5:04 AM

        The Wikipedia history tab is a useful and interesting tool to see how and why a page “developed”.

        User with the IP had done a part of the texts is – surprise located in Israel. User GTVM92 who created the first page used the name ”Mohammad Khazaee” in the beginning of the text. Then came this Israeli “expert”( adding the “embassy seizing” chapter. The name “Mohammad Khazaee” was still in front of the first chapter after Israeli guy’s modifications. Then came user Kiarashplusplus and corrected the name “Mohammad Khazaee” to “Hamid Aboutalebi”. Hmmmm ….

  • Scott Shepard March 30, 2014, 8:59 PM


    It is evident that the so called Iranian Hostage Crisis will remain the standard of measurement for all things to do with Iran until either the Iranians somehow utterly grovel in apologies of some kind, and until so many decades pass that any possible participants are long gone from the scene. Until that time, any 1979 blurry photo of any Iranian with a beard standing near the embassy is going to be turned into a possible suspect of … of what? I am not sure. One of those who had the temerity to shut down forever a CIA headquarters disguised as an embassy. There were of course lots of Iranian men with dark beards at that time, and many of them showed up at or near the embassy during all of the excitement. I am surprised that none of the Red Sox players have not been accused of having been there, given the popularity of dark beards, except that the Sox players are too young.
    Abutalebi should not have to prove to anybody that he was or was not in Tehran in 1979, when he was a very young man. The Iranian government picked him for the post. End of story. As you said, Richard, about Israel. The US appoints into diplomatic posts men who once did dirty jobs all over the world and no other country gets to utter a squeak about it. If they did, we would laugh. But Iran is forever scarred for its crime. And what was that crime, really? Taking hostages?
    If it is Iran, it is taking hostages. If it is a western country, they call it ‘you are under arrest.’ The real crime was humiliating the United States. That is what all of this has been about since 1979. Iran embarrassed America and then refused to show fear or contrition. So, since that time, we have pounded away, manufacturing excuses for some other abuse of that country.

    After what we did to Iran in 1980 – 1988, helping the ruthless Saddam Hussein to wage war upon Iran — not because Iran was particularly deserving of attack, but just because we carried left over rage — we should be the ones trying to make amends with the Iranians. But we will never see it that way.

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