Cruz: ‘Unconscionable’ That U.S. Would Be Forced to Host Terrorists As UN Ambassadors

By Patrick Goodenough | April 2, 2014 | 4:18am EDT

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greets Iranian President Hasan Rouhani in New York on September 27, 2013. (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

( – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at preventing “known terrorists” from entering the U.S. to serve as U.N. envoys in New York.

“It is unconscionable that, in the name of international diplomatic protocol, the United States would be forced to host a foreign national who showed a brutal disregard for the status of our diplomats when they were stationed in his country,” Cruz told the Senate.

The move comes several months after Iranian President Hasan Rouhani nominated a diplomat named Hamid Aboutalebi as Iran’s next representative to the U.N. in New York and filed a visa application.

Aboutalebi allegedly belonged to a group of student radicals loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran after the Islamic revolution, and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in 1979-1981.

Aboutalebi, who has served as an Iranian ambassador to several European countries and Australia, denies involvement in the embassy takeover, but admits being present at the occupied mission, where he says he was used as a translator.

Cruz quoted President Carter as saying in his 1980 State of the Union address that the captivity of the hostages was “an act of international terrorism.”

Under the existing statute, Cruz pointed out, the president has the discretion to reject an applicant for a U.N. representative post who has engaged in espionage against the U.S. and poses a national security threat.

Cruz’ legislation would add that someone who has engaged in terrorism against the U.S. must also be denied a visa.

“How would we feel, for example, if the Taliban had sent Osama bin Laden to be an ambassador to the United Nations from Afghanistan? Or how would we feel if some other country sent an ambassador who was complicit in the terrorist attack that murdered 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers in Beirut in 1983?”

“How would we feel if another country sent as ambassador someone who was complicit in the terrorist attack on Khobar Towers [in Saudi Arabia] that murdered 19 airmen in 1996, to name but a few potential examples?”

“None of these examples would necessarily meet the current statutory requirement of having engaged in espionage,” he said. “They murdered, or kidnapped, or tortured innocent Americans but they didn’t necessarily engage in a specific act of espionage. But all, unequivocally, should be excluded.”

“This legislation would ensure that such people can never use the United Nations to gain entry into the United States.”

Cruz expressed hope that the Senate could take bipartisan action on his bill within days.

He went on to question Rouhani’s decision to nominate Aboutalebi, calling it “willfully, deliberately insulting and contemptuous.”

A Nov. 6, 1979 file photo shows the United States Embassy in Tehran, scene of the 444 day-long hostage drama. (AP Photo/File)

It should be a wake-up call, he said – “the regime in Iran is directed by the same policies that resulted in the hostage crisis in the first place.”

Cruz also questioned the Obama administration’s optimistic view that Rouhani was “somehow a moderate,” acting in good faith in the nuclear negotiations, and that Iran was softening its position towards the West.

“This nomination should dispel those illusions, because the professed optimism of this administration flies in the face of reason.”

‘We don’t discuss individual visa cases’

The statute Cruz’s legislation aims to amend, Public Law 101–246 of 1990, states that the president may deny a visa to a U.N. representative if it is determined that “such individual has been found to have been engaged in espionage activities directed against the United States or its allies and may pose a threat to United States national security interests.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to comment on Aboutalebi’s nomination or discuss his visa application at press briefings on Monday and again on Tuesday.

“The visa procedure is obviously confidential, we don’t discuss individual visa cases,” she said.

“People are free to apply for one and their visas are adjudicated under the normal procedures that we adjudicate peoples’, and we don’t make a prediction about what the outcome of that process might look like.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton called Rouhani’s nomination of Aboutalebi “a thumb in the eye of the United States.”

“This is really Iran’s ambassador in America, since they have no direct diplomatic ties, and I think it’s intended to show that this regime, despite some of the P.R. moves we’ve heard about it, is still the same fundamentally anti-American regime it’s been since 1979,” he told Fox News on Tuesday.

“Personally I think Iran should either be expelled or suspended under the U.N. Charter because it is not a peace loving state,” Bolton said. “I have no hesitation at all in saying we should deny a visa to this individual. There is no chance the Obama administration will do that because they’ll fear its consequences for the nuclear negotiations.”

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