Bill Would Prohibit State Department from Granting Visas to U.N. Ambassadors Who Are Also Terrorists

Passed unanimously by House and Senate
Iranian students burn the U.S and Israel flags in front of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran / AP

Iranian students burn the U.S and Israel flags in front of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran / AP

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A bill that would ban Iran’s United Nations ambassador and other terrorists from the United States unanimously passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, and is now awaiting a signature or veto from President Barack Obama.

Earlier this week, the Senate unanimously passed the measure prohibiting the State Department from granting visas to U.N. ambassadors who are also terrorists, a category that would include Iran’s newly-selected U.N. envoy and 1979 hostage-taker Hamid Aboutalebi.

The Obama administration has criticized Iran’s appointment of Aboutalebi, who participated in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and is accused of orchestrating the 1993 assassination of a well-known Iranian defector.

The White House called the choice “not viable.” However, President Obama has not commented on whether he will approve the congressional measure banning Aboutalebi from the United States.

Iran’s government rejected the charges and praised Aboutalebi, giving no indication that it would reconsider the appointment.

The Obama administration has shown a reluctance to respond to Iranian provocations during its efforts to reach an agreement with Tehran over its nuclear weapons program. The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether it would sign or veto the measure.

The bills were spearheaded by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.).

Thursday’s unanimous approval by the House was precipitated by a short but intense grassroots lobbying campaign by Christians United for Israel (CUFI), an influential pro-Israel group.

CUFI called on its members to contact their representatives in Congress and ask them to support the measure. It said the campaign, which was launched late Wednesday afternoon, generated over 9,000 emails within hours.

“There’s overwhelming support,” said CUFI executive director David Brog. “This is a common-sense measure.”

Brog said it is rare that a measure with such significant international consequence passes both houses of Congress unanimously and showed that on this issue “there’s no debate.”

He also said any administration attempt to veto the bill or provide a waiver for Aboutalebi would be met with backlash from Congress and the public.

“If [the White House] choose[s] to disregard the will of Congress and the American people, we will respond, and we will make sure our voice is heard,” said Brog. “This would be a terrible mistake in the service of a [nuclear] negotiating process whose flaws become more apparent every day.”