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  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.