Pompeo’s Petty Decision to Bar Zarif
Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer report on the Trump administration’s decision to refuse a visa to Iran’s foreign minister. Barring Zarif from the U.S. is a blatant violation of U.S. obligations as the host of U.N. headquarters:
“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, who currently serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia University Law School, noted that the U.S. Congress, however, passed legislation in August 1947, the so-called Public Law 80-357, that granted the U.S. government the authority to bar foreign individuals invited by the United Nations to attend meetings at its New York City headquarters if they are deemed to pose a threat to U.S. national security. But Johnson said the U.S. law would require the individual be “expected to commit some act against the U.S. national security interest while here in the United States.”
Refusing to admit Zarif is another foolish mistake on the administration’s part. Preventing him from coming to the U.N. not only breaches our government’s agreement with the U.N., but it also closes off a possible channel of communication and demonstrates to the world that the U.S. has no interest in a diplomatic resolution of the current crisis. Far from conveying the “toughness” that Pompeo imagines he is showing, keeping Zarif out reeks of weakness and insecurity. Zarif is a capable diplomat, but is the Trump administration really so afraid of what he would say while he is here that they would ignore U.S. obligations to block him?
By barring Zarif, the Trump administration has given him and his government another opportunity to score an easy propaganda win. They have squandered an opportunity to reduce tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The U.S. needs to find an off-ramp to avoid further conflict following the president’s assassination order, but thanks to Pompeo’s decision that off-ramp won’t be found in New York.