When Iranian radicals stormed the United States Embassy in 1979 and took American diplomats hostage, they crossed a line rarely crossed in global relations. It's one thing to wage war and take prisoners as part of that and something else again to take diplomats hostage in their own embassy.
But that is what Iran did in 1979, holding those hostages until they were released in January, 1992. At best, it was a shameful merger of war and rebellion. At worst, it was an outright act of war that was met with outrage and little more.
But Iran has now picked up the big sharp stick on the ground that was the hostage situation and are poking it in the eye of the United States by elevating one of those hostage-takers to the position of UN Envoy:
Iran has named a member of the militant group that held 52 Americans hostage in Tehran for 444 days to be its next ambassador to the United Nations.
The Iranian government has applied for a U.S. visa for Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran’s former ambassador to Belgium and Italy, who was a member of the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line, a group of radical students that seized the U.S. embassy on Nov. 4, 1979. Imam was an honorific used for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution.
Relations between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. and its allies are beginning to emerge from the deep freeze that began when the self-proclaimed Iranian students overrun the embassy and took the hostages. The State Department hasn’t responded to the visa application, according to an Iranian diplomat.
As someone related to a diplomat who served in that region in that very time, this feels like an intentional middle finger from Iran to the US, and also suggests some possible instigation by the Russians.
I'm not the only one who feels that way:
“There’ll not be any rapprochement with Iran until hostages are compensated for their torture,” said Tom Lankford, an Alexandria, Virginia-based lawyer who’s been trying to win compensation for the hostages since 2000. “It’s important that no state sponsor of terror can avoid paying for acts of terror.”
Anyone connected with the hostage-takers shouldn’t get a U.S. visa, said a former hostage and U.S. diplomat. He requested anonymity to avoid renewed attention.
The response to our objections is a giant yawn. I don't care if he didn't hold a gun to our diplomats' heads. He was involved, and that should disqualify him from any position or visa in this country.
Aboutalebi has said he didn’t take part in the initial occupation of the embassy, and acted as translator and negotiator, according to an interview he gave to the Khabaronline news website in Iran.
“On a few other occasions, when they needed to translate something in relation with their contacts with other countries, I translated their material into English or French,” Aboutalebi said, according to Khabaronline. “I did the translation during a press conference when the female and black staffers of the embassy were released, and it was purely based on humanitarian motivations.”
Sure, that's all it was. Just a few translations when they were released. Hogwash.