Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Tuesday confirmed reports that the Trump administration has denied him a visa to enter the U.S. for a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York this week, a move the diplomat said was motivated by a desire to suppress facts about the assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
"This is because they fear someone will go there and tell the truth to the American people," Zarif told reporters from Tehran. "But they are mistaken. The world is not limited to New York. You can speak with American people from Tehran too and we will do that."
"Pompeo doesn't want Zarif to have a platform for making his case."
—Mark Fitzpatrick, former U.S. State Department official
Zarif's remarks came after Foreign Policy, citing three anonymous diplomatic sources, reported Monday that the Trump administration had decided to bar the foreign minister from entering the U.S., "violating the terms of a 1947 headquarters agreement requiring Washington to permit foreign officials into the country to conduct U.N. business."
On Twitter, Zarif said the Trump administration's decision to deny him a visa "pales in comparison" to the White House's other aggressive actions against Iran, from devastating economic sanctions to threats to destroy its cultural heritage.
Denying me a visa in violation of 1947 UNHQ Agreement pales in comparison to:
-Pompeo's threat to starve Iranians (crime against humanity)
-Trump's bluster about cultural heritage (war crime)
But what are they really afraid of? Truth?
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 7, 2020
The U.N. meeting Thursday would have been Zarif's first address to the international community since the U.S. assassination of Soleimani, which the Iranian foreign minister condemned as an "act of terrorism."
According to Foreign Policy, Iran was "awaiting word on the visa Monday when a Trump administration official phoned U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to inform him that the United States would not allow Zarif into the country."
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Larry Johnson, a former U.N assistant secretary-general, said the U.S. is "absolutely obligated" to let Zarif into the country under the terms of the 1947 U.N. headquarters agreement.
"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," Johnson told Foreign Policy.
Former U.S. State Department official Mark Fitzpatrick said the decision to bar Zarif shows Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—the driving force behind the Trump administration's hawkish Iran policies—"doesn't want Zarif to have a platform for making his case."
Pompeo doesn't want Zarif to have a platform for making his case. https://t.co/K5pu1NcwAI
— Mark Fitzpatrick (@MarkTFitz) January 6, 2020
As Common Dreams reported in August, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Zarif amid escalating tensions over a series of oil tanker attacks in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. ultimately allowed Zarif to enter the country at that time to visit U.N. headquarters, despite grumblings of disapproval from Pompeo.
Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), warned in a statement following the imposition of sanctions against Zarif that "Trump is ensuring that there will be no serious negotiations with Iran during his tenure."
"Once again, without a clear line to Zarif or any other Iranian officials to de-escalate tensions," said Abdi, "the next crisis that the U.S. or Iran precipitates will once again risk war."