WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Monday blocked Iran’s foreign minister
from addressing the
later this week, denying him a visa to enter the
in what was widely seen as abuse of its privilege of hosting the international body.
While many international diplomats and observers saw Washington’s action as violating terms of the 1947 headquarters agreement that require the US to allow foreign officials into the country to conduct business at the United Nations, the headquarters of which is located in Manhattan, New York City, US officials argued that it was Iran which was violation of rules of international diplomatic conduct and therefore merited a ban.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly conveyed the US decision to UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres on Monday. “I don’t think Secretary Pompeo thought this was the right time for Mr Zarif to come to the US,” US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien told Fox News, adding that the Iranian foreign minister can “call in.”
Zarif had intended to address the UN Security Council on January 9 on the American assassination of Iran top general Qassem Suleimani in a drone attack last week, a targeted killing that has attracted widespread condemnation within the US and outside, despite the Trump administration’s claim that he was a marauding terrorist who took many American lives. Even US lawmakers and former officials say the case for Suleimani’s assassination is sketchy.
But the President and his aides have doubled down on the killing, which has inflamed the Middle East and caused disquiet in the US, including resulting in Washington having to return troops to Iraq to safeguard its assets, resulting in a temporary reversal of Trump’s intent to eventually pull out all troops.
Zarif was already under the American cosh, with Washington restricting his movements in Manhattan when he previously came to the UN in 2018-2019.
On his part, the Iranian foreign minister reacted coolly to the ban, asking via Twitter: “Denying me a visa in violation of 1947 UNHQ Agreement pales in comparison to: -Pompeo’s threat to starve Iranians (crime against humanity) -Trump’s bluster about cultural heritage (war crime) -#EconomicTerrorism -Cowardly assassination But what are they really afraid of? Truth?”
The US-educated Zarif, who went to prep school in California when he was 17 and graduated with a law degree from the University of Denver (one of his teachers was Ved Nanda, a distinguished Indian-American law professor), has been a thorn in the flesh of the Trump dispensation, frequently schooling the President and his associates on international law and diplomatic conduct, and taunting them over their lack of command over both the law and the English language.
He humiliated Trump on Twitter earlier this week by lecturing him about global rules of diplomatic conduct and engagement when the US President, viewed with contempt by Teheran (the assassinated General Suleimani called him a bartender) threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites if Teheran retaliated against the US assassination of Suleimani.
The United States has previously used its status as host country to deny access to the UN to leaders such as Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat, who Washington viewed as radical elements inimical to American interests and values.
Washington has also restricted the movement in New York City of some foreign leaders and declined to provide security detail to others, making it difficult for them to access TV studios and think-tanks to make their case. Among the more recent targets of American wrath was Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.