Trump Bars Iran FM From Addressing UN Security Council

Zarif planned to criticize US assassination on Soleimani

To avoid a speech at the UN Security Council critical of President Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian General Qassam Soleimani, the US has refused to allow Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to enter the country for the purpose of conducting UN business.

Zarif has been planning to visit the UN for weeks, and had requested the visa back in December. The 1947 UN Headquarters treaty obliges the US not to “impose any impediments to transit to or from the headquarters district” for officials invited to the UN on official business. This means the US is overtly violating this deal.

There is no legal basis for what the US is doing in this case. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was informed by the Trump Administration that they won’t allow Zarif into the country to attend his already scheduled UN speech.

This follows months of the US increasingly restricting the movements of Zarif and other Iranians involved in the UN delegation. Most of the restrictions were overtly intended to prevent Zarif from reaching TV studios within New York City.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously threatened to bar Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani from the UN General Assembly, arguing that they are “connected to a foreign terrorist organization.” UN officials have pointed out that the treaty does not allow Pompeo to make decisions to exclude officials from a UN member nation to address the UN Security Council.

This extra-legal move is not totally unprecedented. In 1988, the Reagan Administration blocked Yasser Arafat from addressing the UN General Assembly. The UN responded by moving the entire General Assembly to Geneva, Switzerland for the speech.

It would be difficult to try to relocate the UN Security Council over one speech by Zarif, but if the US makes a habit out of blocking its critics from the UN, in violation of the Headquarters treaty, the UN must inevitably consider relocating out of the US entirely for the sake of its operation.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.