Scores of U.S. Visas for Ahmadinejad's Bulging Entourage
When Iran's pro-genocide president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attends the United Nations General Assembly annual opening in New York this coming week, how many Iranian officials will he bring in his entourage?
Far too many, if the numbers reported today by Iran's Fars News Agency are to be believed. As Fars describes it, the U.S. has denied entry visas to 20 Iranian officials, but that's out of "the 160 people for whom the Iranian government had demanded entry visas two months ago."
Let's do the math: 160 visas demanded, minus 20 denied = a whopping total of 140 visas issued for the Ahmadinejad delegation to the UN General Assembly.
That would be 140 visas allowing entry for officials and affiliates of a regime under UN and U.S. sanctions -- a nuclear-bomb-seeking regime implicated just last fall in an alleged terror plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. by bombing a restaurant in Washington, D.C.; a regime whose terror-based rule, networks and ambitions violate the UN's own charter and threaten America and America's allies.
That's 140 visas for a regime that continues to dodge sanctions with shifting, globe-girdling networks of front companies and illicit procurement operations for its missile and nuclear programs. Presumably, U.S. authorities -- at considerable expense to U.S. taxpayers -- will not only protect Ahmadinejad and his retinue while they are in New York, but also keep an eye on the doings of members of this massive Tehran roadshow, while they enjoy the amenities of Manhattan. But U.S. officialdom didn't manage to prevent Ahmadinejad himself from recruiting the services of an Iranian-American sanctions violator, Ali Amirnazmi, during one of his previous trips to UN headquarters in New York. Instead, U.S. taxpayers got to foot the bill, rather later, for prosecuting this fellow, once law enforcement eventually caught up with him.
For the U.S. State Department, it is apparently routine to issue scores of U.S. visas for Iran's massive delegations. In 2010, when Ahmadinejad made an extra trip to the UN in New York, to attend a summit on nonproliferation (no, I'm not kidding), the U.S. State Department apparently issued 80 visas for that delegation -- a number that became public because Iran had apparently requested a total of 81 visas, and when State denied just one of them, Iran wrote to the UN to complain about the lone denial. For State, it's business as usual to admit scores of Iranian officials to New York every time they fancy a visit to a UN summit. As for New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he's on record as shrugging off these huge Iranian delegations as distasteful, but an unavoidable part of hosting the UN, which he regards as a boon to New York City's economy. (Surely New York could more profitably put its resources into welcoming tax-paying honest commerce, rather than gloating Iranian envoys?)
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.