Three members of Congress have applied for visas to visit Iran later this month to serve as volunteer monitors of Iran’s upcoming elections.
Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) applied for the visas at the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, which serves as Iran’s de facto DC diplomatic headquarters. They explained their actions in an open letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari. The congressmen wrote that they were excited to observe Iran’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for February 26. “What a historic occasion,” they wrote.
We look forward to seeing Iranian democracy in action. It would be a shame if there weren’t any Americans present to validate that the elections were free and fair, for the first time in the clerical regime’s history.
They went on to add that they were concerned by reports that Iran’s Guardian Council disqualified the applications of 99% of reformist and moderate candidates last month, and said that they would “welcome the opportunity to be convinced that these elections will be fair and free.”
Then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in 2009 in a vote that was largely believed to be fraudulent. The dissatisfaction with the results of that vote led to the Green Movement, a wave of protests that was brutally suppressed. Ahmadinejad’s election challenger remains under house arrest six years later.
The congressmen’s letter also explained that while in Iran, they would like to meet with American citizens currently being detained by the government, receive a military briefing to understand Iran’s side of the story after the detention of U.S. Navy sailors last month, and visit Iranian nuclear facilities to ensure that the Islamic Republic is complying with the terms of last year’s nuclear deal.
“It is critical that we, as members of Congress, visit Iran and verify whether or not this country will uphold the terms of the nuclear deal,” Pompeo said in a statement. “It is also important to have Americans present to observe if Iran’s elections are free and fair. If Iran is truly a partner in peace, as President Obama and Secretary Kerry claim, then Iranian leaders should have no problem granting our visas and arranging the requested agenda. I look forward to receiving a timely response from Iran.”
“For the past year, we have been repeatedly assured by President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei of a new era of openness and cooperation between the United States and Iran,” LoBiondo added. “In the spirit of such openness and cooperation, my colleagues and I should be able to visit Iran and see firsthand what we have requested to review, including the upcoming Iranian elections. Approving the visa applications of Member of the U.S. Congress would be a sign of good faith from the Iranian government.”
In response, 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.
“Elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran need no international oversight and in case of any need [for monitoring], that [monitor] will definitely not be the United States,” Boroujerdi said. He added that the three members of congress had no right to ask permission to monitor the elections because Iran “has the most powerful democracy in the region and our elections are quite transparent and in line with international regulations.”
[Photo: Mohamad Sadegh Heydari / Wikimedia]