In early February, three weeks before Iran’s general elections, three hawkish Republican lawmakers sent an ironic letter to Iran’s supreme leader requesting travel visas to watch “Iranian democracy in action,” discuss Iran’s “continued work on weaponization,” and speak, “in an unmonitored and lengthy meeting,” with Americans jailed by Iran.
This week, after a pointedly long delay, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif finally told the GOP pranksters the obvious: they won’t be getting visas.
“Despite what you seem to presume, members of the U.S. Congress do not get to dictate the policies of other countries,” Zarif wrote. “This clearly applies to Iranian visa policies. Bear in mind that as members of the U.S. Congress you are not a global authority.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry released the full text of his reply on Tuesday, one day after the Weekly Standard reported on its contents.
The American and Iranian leaders who crafted the nuclear deal, which ended a ten-year standoff by placing limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from punishing Western economic sanctions, have had to fend off relentless attacks by domestic political opponents in both countries.
Republican lawmakers, including the three who requested visas — Mike Pompeo (KS), Lee Zeldin (NY), and Frank LoBiondo (NJ) — voted uniformly against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. They have subsequently tried to derail it with “poison pill” amendments and bills for renewed sanctions.
Zarif, the diplomat who led Iran’s negotiating team during the nuclear talks, took a decidedly undiplomatic tone with the Republican letter writers.
He reminds them that parliamentary delegations work on the basis of invitations and bilateral agreements, “not upon unilateral demands by self-arrogating individuals or parliamentarians.”
Their request, Zarif says, is all the more preposterous given recent U.S. legislation that views all travel to Iran as a high-level security risk to the United States. That law, passed in December, introduces visa restrictions on foreigners who’ve visited Iran in the last five years and strips all dual Iranian citizens, regardless of whether their home country is a U.S. ally, of visa-free travel to the United States.
“Surely it is ironic that you believe that going to Iran would ‘radicalize’ and turn citizens of all other countries into ‘potential security risks’ for the United States; but you still seek to visit Iran and believe that such a visit will have no such radicalizing effect on you,” Zarif writes.
Zarif ends his letter by calling the Republican lawmakers’ request a “publicity stunt.”
“It has, and will continue to be, treated in that spirit.”
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