Raymond Tanter

A kidnapper-diplomat is an oxymoron—words with contradictory meanings, In this case, the terms suggest that an ambassador has operated outside the rules of diplomacy. Now tack on evidence that he is linked to an assassination of another envoy; then surely there are grounds for his exclusion from the United States.

Iran nominated Hamid Aboutalebi to be Ambassador to the UN, but Washington refused to issue a visa. The Committee on Relations with the Host Country refrained from making a recommendation to the General Assembly, and the case remains on the Committee agenda.

On April 18, 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that both houses of Congress had passed unanimously. It would allow him to ban an Iranian diplomat from entering the United States to be Ambassador of Iran to the United Nations, and the President elected to do so.

The idea that a UN member state has unlimited right to name anyone it wishes as envoy to the UN stems from a narrow interpretation of the Agreement between the UN and the United States of June 26, 1947. The UN headquarters agreement grants the United States authority to retain full control over entry of persons into U.S. territory.

Only if diplomats are acting in official capacities can they take advantage of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. If a diplomat has participated in hostage-taking, this envoy has a record of acting outside official duties and may portend future unacceptable behavior.

Diplomat Linked to an Assassination

In addition to kidnapping, there is evidence linking an assassination plot of Iranian dissidents to Iran’s diplomats in Italy. An article in the New York Times of March 18, 1993, states that, “United States analysts said they had little doubt that Teheran ordered the assassination of…[Mohammad-Hossein Naghdi, the representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Italy, on March 16,1993].”

I have reviewed documents of the investigation by the Italian Police, based on eye-witness accounts of the role played by Aboutalebi in planning and implementation of the assassination of Naghdi: “Rome Police Special Operations Group,” 15 January 2003, 32 pp; and “Special Operations Group Police Department, Rome, Murder of Mohamed Hossein Naghdi,” 31 July 2003, 13 pp.


Raymond Tanter

Raymond Tanter served on the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. His latest book is "Arab Rebels and Iranian Dissidents."