President Joe Biden hasn’t blocked Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi from entering the U.S. to speak at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York City next month. Raisi will attend even after an Iranian military officer was charged this month with trying to assassinate former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
For weeks, Senate Republicans have been calling for President Joe Biden to block Raisi, who the U.S. sanctioned in 2019 for his role in executing children in 2018 and 2019. Earlier this month, The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military officer with trying to hire people to assassinate Pompeo and former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Despite this, Raisi is expected to attend the assembly meeting in New York City as planned.
Iran has been seeking revenge against Pompeo, Bolton and other former officials from President Donald Trump’s administration for the Jan. 3, 2020 U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq.
On Aug. 2, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Rick Scott (R-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) sent Biden a letter demanding he deny visas for Raisi and his delegation to attend the UNGA in New York in September.
“If recent reports are true that Raisi plans to attend the UN General Assembly, the White House must deny Raisi and other Iranian officials visas to attend,” the senators wrote. “Allowing Raisi to travel to the United States—while his agents actively work to assassinate senior American officials on U.S. soil—would gravely endanger our national security, given the likely presence of IRGC agents in the Iranian delegation.”
Raisi attended the UNGA in New York last year, just months after taking office. Iranian leaders have attended and spoken at the UNGA every year since the 1950s.
The Biden administration has not yet offered a statement in response to the calls to block Raisi from attending this year’s UNGA.
In Raisi’s 2021 UNGA speech, he claimed Iran was compliant with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) while the U.S. continues to violate the agreement with sanctions.
Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran that had existed prior to the 2015 agreement. Iran has responded by ramping up its stockpiling and enriching nuclear material beyond the limits imposed by the 2015 deal.
The Biden administration is actively negotiating for the U.S. to reenter the 2015 JCPOA and for Iran to return to compliance with the deal.
In last year’s UNGA speech, Raisi also denounced the “occupier Zionist regime” of the Israeli government, calling it the biggest source of state terrorism. The U.S. had labeled Iran the leading state sponsor of terrorism multiple years in a row during the Trump administration.
During last year’s speech, Raisi also credited Soleimani and pro-Iranian paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis with stopping the spread of the Islamic State terrorist group, ISIS.
Al-Muhandis had led the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Front (PMF), whose supporters had attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in December of 2019. Al-Muhandis had been traveling with Soleimani when they were killed days later by a U.S. drone strike.
“If not for the power and role of Iran alongside the governments and peoples of Syria and Iraq as well as all the selfless efforts of Martyrs Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and General Qassem Soleimani, today ISIS would be the Mediterranean neighbors of Europe,” Raisi said last year.