The Trump administration is barring Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from entering the United States this week to address the United Nations Security Council about the US elimination of Iran’s top military official Qassem Soleimani, three diplomatic sources told Foreign Policy on Monday.
Zarif requested a visa a “few weeks ago” to enter the United States to attend a January 9 Security Council meeting on the importance of upholding the UN Charter, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the matter. The Thursday meeting was to provide Tehran’s top diplomat with his first opportunity to directly address the world community since US President Donald Trump ordered the January 3 drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad.
The Iranian government was awaiting word on the visa Monday when a Trump administration official phoned UN Secretary-General António Guterres to inform him that the United States would not allow Zarif into the country, the Washington-based diplomatic source told Foreign Policy.
When Zarif visited the UN this past summer, the US issued him a visa but forbade him from moving beyond six blocks of Iran's UN mission in Midtown Manhattan, a move which resulted in criticism from the UN.
The administration is required to issue the visas under the UN agreement with the United States, the host country of the organization.
Before the UN General Assembly debate this part September, Pompeo hinted that he might bar the Iranian delegation, led by President Hassan Rouhani and Zarif, from entering the United States, saying that Iran was responsible for carrying out an earlier drone and missile strike on two critical Saudi Arabian oil installations.
However, the US ended up issuing the visas to the Iranian delegation. When asked about the issue at the time, President Donald Trump said that if it were up to him, the Iranian leaders would be granted visas.
The latest incident comes amid increased tensions between the US and Iran following the elimination of Soleimani last week.
Iranian leaders have threatened to retaliate for the US strike. On Saturday night, Trump responded to the threats from Iran regarding revenge for the killing of Soleimani and tweeted, "Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!"
On Sunday, Trump again vowed “major retaliation” if Iran attacks US interests.