It’s Our Party

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Hamid Aboutalebi

I just heard the news: the United States has changed its mind about Jens Stoltenberg, the new head of NATO. The U.S. Congress has passed a resolution blocking his appointment. Apparently, during his youth, Stoltenberg threw stones at the U.S. embassy in Oslo. As such, he constitutes a threat to American national security, and Congress is rightly taking a stand.

Oh, I’m sorry, I must have misheard. It wasn’t the new NATO chief that the United States is blocking. Rather, it’s Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, who, in addition to having a suspiciously Bulgarian background, was a member of a Marxist underground movement in the 1960s. Congress doesn’t want her speaking at the UN, so they’ve revoked her visa.

Oops, my mistake, it wasn’t Dilma Rouseff. It was Chinese dissident Xu Youyu. Even though he is a signatory of the Charter 08 manifesto calling for political reform and democratization in China, he was a Red Guard in his youth, and we all know how dangerously radical they were. So it’s good that the U.S. Congress is unanimously blocking his entry into this country.

No, not Xu Youyu? Oh, you said Xi Jinping? Gosh, I often get those Chinese names mixed up. Well, of course, the U.S. Congress shouldn’t let Xi Jinping come here. He’s the head of the most powerful Communist Party in the world! He was a Communist in his youth. And his father was a Communist bigwig as well. Anti-Americanism clearly runs in his veins. We can’t let people like that into the United States!

If this all sounds absurd to you, well, you don’t know Ted Cruz, the grandstanding Tea Party Republican from Texas. Last week, Cruz sponsored a Senate bill demanding that Iran rescind its choice as UN envoy, Hamid Aboutalebi. Apparently, Aboutalebi worked as a translator when he was in his twenties, and helped the Iranian students who took Americans hostage back in 1979. Admittedly translation is a dicey profession— “to translate is to betray,” as the Italian saying goes. And I suspect that Ted Cruz considers bilingualism itself to be fundamentally anti-American (why on earth did that Aboutalebi fellow opt to speak a language other than English?).

But it was something else that stuck in Cruz’s craw. He felt that Iran was clearly rubbing the hostage crisis in our faces once again. “We, as a country, can send an unequivocal message to rogue nations like Iran that the United States will not tolerate this kind of provocative and hostile behavior,” Cruz said.

Cruz neglected to point out that Aboutalebi is an experienced diplomat who has worked in Iranian missions in Australia, Belgium, and Italy. The Texas firebrand, who would never let a bunch of foreigners tell America what to do, has seemingly forgotten that the United States hasn’t run Iranian foreign policy since the days of the Shah. But here’s the most important point that Cruz, who has a law degree from Harvard University, has overlooked: Iranians have a sovereign right to choose whomever they want to represent them at the UN, just as Texans have the right to choose whatever Ivy League meathead they want to represent them in Congress. And the United States has an obligation under a 1947 agreement with the UN to grant entry visas to diplomatic representatives.

If the story stopped with Ted Cruz, it would be only an amusing anecdote. But, unbelievably, Cruz’s measure won the unanimous support of both the Senate and the House. Unanimous? There was no one willing to stand up to bullyboys Ted Cruz and his ally Charles Schumer (D-NY)? Schumer, by the way, has already threatened to blow up the interim nuclear agreement with Iran by supporting a new round of sanctions.

Okay, so Congress is stupid, and that stupidity is bipartisan. But then the Obama administration, instead of reminding Congress that its scope of authority is limited to the territorial boundaries of the United States, actually told Iran that it wouldn’t issue a visa to Aboutalebi. Mind you, the Iranian diplomat wasn’t coming over here to lobby on K Street or something similarly nefarious. He was going to work for an international organization that just happens to be located in New York.

Iran has, quite rightly, refused withdraw its choice. Tehran is now pursuing a diplomatic solution to the impasse.

You might be surprised to learn that even North Koreans are given visas to represent their mission at the UN. Washington doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. Until rather recently, North Korea was on the list of terrorism-supporting countries. The visas given to the North Korean diplomats are rather restrictive—they can’t travel beyond a 25-mile radius of Manhattan (a distinction they share with UN diplomats from Syria and, yes, Iran). But hey, the North Koreans are still let into the country. I hesitate to write all of this, just in case Ted Cruz discovers that there are North Koreans currently in the United States and decides to sponsor a bill expelling them.

Sure, I can imagine a circumstance in which the United States legitimately blocks the entry of a UN envoy. I wouldn’t want a serial killer or the head of a criminal enterprise hanging out at the UN. I wouldn’t want an ideologue who denies the existence of the UN or warms to the idea of lopping off 10 stories of the UN building (oops, that was an American, John Bolton, who was a diplomat in name alone). Except for these extreme cases, I’d let all professional diplomats come to New York, regardless of their political beliefs or what they did in their twenties. Let them work at the UN, experience the multiculturalism of New York, and be entranced by the city’s excellent delicatessens. If an overstuffed corned beef sandwich on rye doesn’t make you pro-American, nothing will.

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” sang Leslie Gore back in the 1960s. That’s how Ted Cruz and Charles Schumer feel about Iran spoiling their us-versus-them worldview by agreeing to negotiate over its nuclear program. That’s how Congress apparently feels about another country exercising its sovereign right to appoint its own diplomats. And that’s how the United States feels about the rules of the global disco. It’s our party—and if you don’t party by our rules, you’re not invited.

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus.

  • Jay

    Schumer isn’t the “ally” here, he’s the string-puller.

  • Nophah Kingweigh

    Look, you DON”T mess with (the knuckle dragging, mouth breathing, wife beating bigots in) texas.

  • Parvin

    Iranian students had the right to take over the American embassy they were afraid of a repeat of 1953 when CIA/MI6 overthrew the government of Mossadegh and reestablish the Shah. Even any of those young students who closed the den of spy in Iran have the right to serve at UN.

  • Tim Caffery

    See, this is why KPFK urks me so much, somehow they became “The Left”, as opposed to the pacifists. They tote the Dems as a last resort. This is beyond digesting to me. Those Civil Rights “legends”, those “immigrants’ rights” allies, would say they did it as a bargaining chip, & the Society of Drone, won’t believe them, or care they are traitors, guilty of treason against MLK, against humanity, against their own kids’ future. I hope my country & my country people, get what we deserve, even just 99% of what we’ve done to the Human Species in the name of America. I pray we die horrible deaths, after our children. And even then, we deserve far worse.

  • Michael

    Is being an interpreter worse than trading with Iran while Iran held hostages? Must be because this fellow gets denied a visa while Bill Clinton with advise from Eric Holder thought nothing of pardoning Marc Rich for trading oil with Iran while Iran held hostages.

  • The FACTS

    What a craven doucheroach this author is… is he too stupid to realize that the filth in Iran chose this maggot ONLY to stick a thumb in the USA’s eye? As far as I am concerned, the author is not fit to lick Cruz’s boots… and all muslims should be deported or placed in camps.

    • David Chapman

      As long as they place you in the camp with the Muslims. That might work. We’ll look the other way.

      • The FACTS

        With your wife, right? She thinks you are a clown anyway…

    • Jim

      You wouldn’t know ‘the facts’ if they kicked your dumb ass.

      • The FACTS

        Why don’t you LICK my dumb ass, you muslim maggot… I hear you are all fags anyway…

  • Jim

    Ted Cruz is actually a transplanted Canuck. Thank god he emigrated further south than where I live.

  • Ne Pacific

    It’s just too sad that Americans in general don’t realize that the US helped bring about the fall and killing of the freely elected president of Iran in the 1950s, so that they could put the Shah in as the puppet of the US, Britain, and Big Oil. That’s why Iranians felt justified in taking those embassy hostages. They shouldn’t have done it, but they had plenty of justification for hating the US. What they did was far less than what the US had already done to Iran.