Iran did not respond to visa requests by three U.S. lawmakers who sought to travel to the Islamic Republic in order to observe its upcoming elections and inspect its nuclear facilities.
Congressmen Mike Pompeo (R – Kan.), Lee Zeldin (R – N.Y.), and Frank LoBiondo (R – N.J.) said in a statement on Wednesday that they had applied for visas to travel to Iran later this month, but did not receive a response by the February 8 deadline personally given by the deputy director of the Iranian Interests Section in Washington, D.C.
The three are members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House CIA Subcommittee, respectively, all of which exercise oversight in matters concerning the Iran nuclear deal.
“With the implementation of the nuclear deal, we seek to hold both our government and the Islamic Republic of Iran accountable,” they explained in the statement. “As President Obama bends to Iran’s will and weakens U.S. counterterrorism law – ignoring the will of Congress, and the law he himself signed – the need for congressional oversight increases and the burden on Iran to allow such oversight is increasingly in its best interests.”
“If Iran refuses to permit Americans to validate that Iran is honoring its commitments, the American people and the international business community have reason to doubt the seriousness and long-term viability of this deal,” they added.
The lawmakers affirmed their hope that Iran will eventually grant their requests, and that “the Iranian people will be able to determine the future of their country in free and fair elections.”
The congressmen’s claim that the Obama administration is “ignoring the will of Congress,” necessitating increased congressional oversight, is a reference to the White House’s efforts to significantly expand the Visa Waiver Program. The extended scope of the program would allow travelers with ties to Iran to enter the U.S. without visas, even though the Islamic Republic remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism, as the U.S. intelligence community’s latest Worldwide Threat Assessment concluded.
Pompeo, Zeldin, and LoBiondo applied for their visas last week, addressing their request to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari.
In addition to monitoring the upcoming elections and inspecting Iranian nuclear sites, the congressmen asked to meet with Americans being held in Iran and to question the IRGC about the circumstances surrounding its seizure of ten U.S. sailors last month.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s committee on national security and foreign policy, replied that the congressmen have no right to make such requests because Iran has “transparent” elections, the semi-official PressTV reported on Sunday.
Boroujerdi’s claim follows reports that Iran’s Guardian Council, which vets candidates for public office, barred 99% of reformist candidates from running in the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections, while two-thirds of all 12,000 applicants withdrew or were disqualified. Iranian state media said last week that the Council reversed its ban on some 1,500 candidates, though it isn’t clear how many of those would be classified as reformers. The Council notably upheld its ban on reformist candidate Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who sought to run for a seat in the country’s Assembly of Experts, which is charged with electing the Supreme Leader of Iran.
Iran released footage on Wednesday of a captured American serviceman in tears after he and nine other U.S. sailors were detained at gunpoint by the IRGC last month. The broadcasting of the video and other images has raised concerns that Iran violated international law in its treatment of the sailors. Celebrations of the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran on Thursday featured a number of commemorations of the sailors’ seizure and chants of “Death to America and Israel.”
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