Will Mullahs’ Diplomatic Slaps Wake America Up?
President Obama deserves kudos for keeping Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran’s designated ambassador to the United Nations, out of America. Dare we hope next for some gumption on the nuclear front?
Think of it this way: By signing a law barring entry to the Iranian would-be ambassador on Friday, Obama seemed to prefer the sensibilities of Sen. Ted Cruz (the firebrand Texas Republican who initiated the bipartisan bill to keep any UN-bound terrorist out of America) to those of Turtle Bay’s legal eagles.
Ouch. That one must have hurt.
On Tuesday, a 19-member UN General Assembly committee meets to discuss Iran’s complaint that Obama’s denial of the visa violates the 1947 convention that brought the UN headquarters to First Avenue.
Any legal expert would conclude the Iranians are absolutely right. True, America barred UN diplomats from entering in the past and the Reagan administration denied a visa to Yasser Arafat when he wanted to address the United Nations in 1988. But never before had we so blatantly rejected another country’s choice of top UN envoy.
But why should America accommodate a clear Iranian slap in our face? Aboutalebi, recall, was one of the Iranian “students” who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.
True, Aboutalebi now claims he was merely a translator in negotiations over the hostages’ fate. But that’s like Vito Corleone’s adopted son and consiglieri, Tom Hagen, saying that he’s just a lawyer.
After all, Aboutalebi was also implicated in planning the 1993 murder in Rome of Iranian dissident Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, according to Italian court documents. (Iran moved Aboutalebi, then its ambassador in Italy, out of the country before the hit took place, so he was never charged.)
Obama understood that a terrorist in striped pants is still a terrorist: Aboutalebi doesn’t deserve to come to America.
As deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf tweeted Friday, the president signed the law “to deny admission to the US to any representative to the UN who President determines has been engaged in terrorist activity against US or its allies & may pose threat to US natl sec interests.”
That bold move comes just as Iran is escalating its charm offensive, announcing over the weekend that at least one issue in nuclear talks with six world powers is now settled.
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, says the dispute over the heavy-water facility in Arak “has been virtually resolved”: Iran will rearrange the plant to allay Western suspicions that it’s the regime’s plutonium path to a nuclear bomb.
Iran is also slowing down its uranium path to the bomb, cutting in half its enrichment to a near-bomb level of 20 percent.
All this is meant to suggest that the parties may yet reach a comprehensive agreement by July to end all nuclear disputes and remove all sanctions.
If only. The problem is, the only way to end all nuclear disputes is an end state Iran will never agree to: the past demands on Iran, as enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions, to close the Arak facility and cease all enrichment activity.
Meanwhile, Tehran is already violating the interim framework agreement it signed in November, which launched the current round of negotiations. Under that pact, Iran was to sell no more than 1 million oil barrels a day. It’s exceeded that level every month since, reaching 1.65 million barrels a day in February (the latest figures available).
Oh, and Russia is negotiating a $20 billion barter deal for Iran’s oil, which Washington fears will further undermine the talks.
Nevertheless, Obama still seems to want an Iran deal — any deal — so much he can taste it.
Perhaps Tehran’s willingness to slap him in the face by sending here a man associated with its most famous hostile act against America will give Obama pause. Maybe the Aboutalebi affair will make his administration rethink the UN-inspired notion that all nations are equal and that even terrorist regimes respect negotiated agreements.
Obama doesn’t need to move all the way to Ted Cruz’s thinking, mind you. Just a bit of “reset” would do.
Does our president have that in him?
Benny Avni is political columnist at New York Post.
April 21, 2014
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