Is anyone in American officialdom counting the real cost to the U.S. of permitting Iran’s president to roll into Manhattan with an entourage that this year looks likely to surpass the size of the U.S. Senate? Even beyond the costs of security and surveillance, such U.S. kow-towing to Iran’s visa demands allows Iran to saturate the UN summit with Iranian officials, and sends Iran the message that it is welcome to exploit access to the UN. Further abuse of such access is sure to follow, especially with Iran serving these next three years as head of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement, which includes well over half the members of the UN General Assembly.
Will Ahmadinejad’s delegation to New York this coming week actually include, as the Fars dispatch implies, 140 members? Who are these people? There is no simple way to check. The U.S. State Department does not release lists of visas issued for UN meetings in New York — though it should. What’s to hide? And while the UN does post lists of delegation members, these lists tend not to appear until weeks after the General Assembly has concluded its opening business. When these lists do appear, they can be incomplete — based on information submitted by the member states. Iran’s record is not one of full disclosure.
There’s a powerful argument for banning Iran’s envoys wholesale from entry to the U.S., no matter what the UN, or the U.S. State Department, or Mayor Bloomberg might prefer. America could actually do the UN a favor in this regard, by holding it to the terms of its own charter — something that could potentially bring a big boost to the tenor and behavior of an organization that is open, in theory, only to peace-loving nations dedicated to such worthy goals as upholding human dignity. When Iran’s officials threaten to wipe Israel off the map, the UN response should be to eject Iran from the UN. If the UN won’t do that, and the U.S. State Department insists on allowing the president of Iran to come to New York to strut the stage of the UN General Assembly, the very least the State Department could do is refuse visas to the rest of his entourage. Let them, in all their massive numbers, tune in by webcast from Tehran. It would be cheaper and safer for New York, for America, and ultimately for that “international community” now descending on Manhattan.