Iran Denies Travel Visas to U.S. Lawmakers

Congressman sought to observe Iranian elections

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his ballot during parliamentary and Experts Assembly elections / AP
• February 29, 2016 12:40 pm


Iran has denied travel documents to three U.S. lawmakers who sought to observe the country’s Friday elections and ensure that they were carried out fairly, according to information provided to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Iranian regime delayed for weeks and ultimately ignored multiple visa requests by three House lawmakers who sought permission to travel to the country in order to monitor the elections held last Friday. Observers say the elections ushered in another crop of hardline, anti-American officials.

The congressmen, including Reps. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.), and Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.), personally delivered their visa applications to the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., several weeks ago.

The lawmakers sought to observe the recent elections, as well as visit the country’s nuclear sites and meet with American hostages currently being held in Iran. While at the embassy, they provided Iranian diplomats with a list of their priorities for the visit.

The Iranian government failed to respond to these requests despite assurances from officials that the matter would be dealt with in a timely fashion. Iran has yet to explain why it did not respond to the congressmen.

Pompeo and the other lawmakers said Iran’s behavior indicates that it has something to hide from the United States and that the country cannot be trusted to uphold promises made under the recent nuclear agreement. They also criticized the Obama administration for not advocating on their behalf.

"Our straightforward and sincere visa applications have been met with mockery and delay from Iran, revealing this regime’s desire to hide from the American public," Pompeo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee of Intelligence, told the Free Beacon on Monday. "I am hopeful that the next U.S. president will critically examine the utility of President Obama’s nuclear deal and put America’s interests ahead of political legacy."

Pompeo further described Friday’s election in Iran as a "sham" that served to enable the country’s hardline government.

"Because the fanatical Ayatollah holds ultimate power, February 26 was more of a selection of the next group of radicals by the current radicals, than a true election by the people," he said. "Iranian state television has declared a national victory for the hardliners—politicians who declared that Israelis ‘aren’t human’ and who called for the execution of the pro-democracy Green Movement leaders were selected."

Early election results indicate the hardliner candidates dominated the election, in part because most moderates were disqualified from participating in advance.

Iran’s Guardian Council, which is controlled by the Supreme Leader, is believed to have disqualified around 60 percent of the potential candidates, including around 99 percent of those viewed as reformists.

"The bulk of the disqualified candidates represent comparatively pragmatic elements of the ruling elite," Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explained in a policy briefing last week. "On the other hand, most of the approved contenders are radical revolutionaries—devotees of the supreme leader with close ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It is mathematically impossible for the less-hardline factions to win at the ballot box."

"As a result, those supposed ‘moderates’ who were approved have been forced to round off their party lists with hardline candidates," Ghasseminejad said.

LoBiondo and Zelden said that Iran’s refusal to grant them travel documents is a sign that the country is not seeking to boost ties with the U.S. as a result of the nuclear deal.

"In this supposed ‘new era of openness and cooperation,’ it is disappointing—but not surprising—that our request to visit Iran and monitor these elections was met with a closed door," said LoBiondo, chair of the House’s CIA subcommittee.

"Furthermore, with the implementation of the nuclear deal and with Americans still detained in Tehran, it is perplexing why the Obama administration refuses to advocate on behalf of our official Congressional visit to Iran on such critical national security issues."

"It’s unfortunate that Iran has not yet granted our request for visas to observe Iran’s election and for other productive purposes. The American people and rest of the free world still deserve first hand confirmation of what present day reality is in Iran. I look forward to Iran showing that it is a partner in peace by issuing our visas so that we can meet with Iranian leadership, visit nuclear sites, and meet with American hostages," said Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Published under: Iran, Iran Nuclear Deal, Mike Pompeo