In another example that the reports that Iran is moderating are wrong, the supposedly moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has named a member of the 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.
A controversy over Aboutalebi’s appointment could spark demands on Capitol Hill and beyond during this congressional election year for the Obama administration to take the unusual step of denying a visa to an official posted to the UN. It also could hamper progress toward a comprehensive agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. and five other world powers are seeking to negotiate with Iran by July 20.
In an interview he gave to Khabaronline, Aboutalebi has said he didn’t take part in the initial occupation of the embassy, he simply acted as translator and negotiator:
“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,” he 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.”
The appointment of Aboutalebi doesn’t project the image of an Iran looking to ease tensions with the United States, not that this administration would know the difference.