If the Biden administration has a shred of respect for human rights and those people who lost their lives to reach freedom and democracy, it should not negotiate with Iran's mass murderer president, Ebrahim Raisi, or grant him a visa to come to New York. Pictured: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stands at the podium during his swearing-in ceremony at the Iranian parliament in Tehran on August 5, 2021. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)
The Biden administration has signaled that it is in a hurry to negotiate with the government of Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, a mass murderer who is known as the Butcher of Tehran, in order to revive former US President Barack Obama's catastrophic 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- which Iran never signed -- and lift sanctions against the Iranian regime.
Just last month, Iran was exposed in an attempt to kidnap a dual US-Iranian citizen, Masih Alinejad, from her home in New York City.
Raisi is currently scheduled to come to the city of that planned kidnapping to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in September. This prospect prompted six Republican senators -- Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- to send a letter to US President Joe Biden urging him to deny entry visas to Raisi and other Iranian officials who are planning to attend the annual UN event.
The US has previously denied an entry visa to other Iranian officials and successfully barred them from entering the US to attend the UN General Assembly. The senators' letter sheds a light on several examples:
"In 1988, the United States barred PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat from entering the United States to attend a meeting of the United Nations. In 2014, President Obama denied an entry visa to Iranian Ambassador Hamid Aboutalebi, who was involved in taking American diplomats hostage in 1979. In 2020, the United States declined to issue a visa for Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, in her former role as the State Department spokeswoman, stated in 2014 that visas can still be denied on "security, terrorism, and foreign policy" grounds.
The Biden administration must not allow Raisi to come to New York, the same city where the Iranian regime recently attempted to kidnap a US citizen. If Raisi is granted a visa to come to the US, the Iranian regime's legitimacy will be enhanced, and the regime will be empowered to try to kidnap more Americans on US soil. As the six senators pointed out in the letter:
"Allowing Raisi to travel to the United States—to the same city where the Iranian regime just tried to kidnap a U.S. citizen—would legitimize his repression, undermine America's moral leadership, and potentially endanger our national security, given the likely presence of intelligence agents in the Iranian traveling party."
Human rights organizations have issued calls to investigate Raisi -- who will most likely be the next Supreme Leader of Iran. Amnesty International's Secretary General Agnès Callamard stated:
"That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran. In 2018, our organization documented how Ebrahim Raisi had been a member of the 'death commission' which forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret thousands of political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran in 1988. The circumstances surrounding the fate of the victims and the whereabouts of their bodies are, to this day, systematically concealed by the Iranian authorities, amounting to ongoing crimes against humanity."
Raisi, as a member of the "Death Commission", would be known for, and implicated in, one of the world's largest mass executions, in which more than 30,000 people were executed, including children and pregnant women. A US House of Representatives resolution detailed:
"... over a 4-month period in 1988, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out the barbaric mass executions of thousands of political prisoners and many unrelated political groups... according to a report by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the massacre was carried out pursuant to a fatwa, or religious decree, issued by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini..."
It was also under Raisi's watch as the head of Iran's Judiciary that nearly 1,500 people were killed during the widespread protests of 2019, many were tortured, and, last year, high profile people such as the champion wrestler Navid Afkari were executed.
The Biden administration needs to listen to the US senators, who have accurately explained:
"Ebrahim Raisi's role in the Death Commissions, brutal crackdowns on Iranian protesters, and his association with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps should disqualify him from receiving a visa to the United States."
If the Biden administration has a shred of respect for human rights and those people who lost their lives to reach freedom and democracy, it should not negotiate with Iran's mass murderer president, or grant him a visa to come to New York.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu