Under the terms of a 1947 treaty, the US is obligated to permit entry of any foreign dignitary who is coming here to speak to the United Nations as an official representative of the country. Foreign Policy is now reporting that, in violation of the treaty, the Trump administration has just refused to issue a visa to Iran’s Foreign Minister, who had planned to come to NY to attend a previously scheduled meeting of UNSC “on the importance of upholding the U.N. Charter, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the matter.” The administration told the UN Secretary General today that the visa would be denied.
(Caveat: I don’t know if the SOP in these cases is to tell the Secretary General, or if this was another petty snub at Iran.)
This isn’t the first time we’ve restricted Foreign Minister Zarif’s presence in the US, though we’ve never banned him outright:
In July, the United States restricted [the Foreign Minister’s] movement to a few blocks in Manhattan and Queens, preventing Zarif from making his regular visits to TV studios, universities, and think tanks. Pompeo defended the decision, noting that American diplomats lack freedom to travel in Iran.
Seems that Zarif, who studied in the US, is an eloquent and impressive presenter of his side of the case, and the Trump administration doesn’t want any of that. This is just the same as forbidding all executive-branch personnel (past as well as present) from testifying to Congress.
And it’s strictly illegal.
“Any foreign minister is entitled to address the Security Council at any time and the United States is obligated to provide access to the U.N. headquarters district,” said Larry Johnson, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general. Under the terms of the U.S. agreement with the United Nations, “they are absolutely obligated to let him in.”
Johnson did add that the treaty allows the US to block entry of a diplomat deemed to pose a threat to US national security, but that means we would have to suspect him of personally planning to attack us or to arrange an attack. No indication that State is making that claim here.
It’s another example of Trump misusing the tools of government to prevent anyone from stepping on his fantasies.
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