NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby addresses criticism of Iran hostage swap on 'The Story with Martha MacCallum.'
Following the killing of hundreds of protesters by the Iranian regime, outrage is accompanying potential Senate action to ban future U.N. visits by Iran President Ebrahim Raisi who sponsored planned assassinations of American citizens. Raisi arrived in New York City on Monday and is expected to speak Tuesday afternoon.
"There's no reason to allow Raisi, 'the butcher of Iran,' who has the blood of innocent Americans, Iranians and others on his hands, to come to New York to spew his nonsense at the podium where he and other representatives from the Islamic Republic have come annually to disrespect the U.S. and our ally, Israel, to spin the narrative and tell lies about Iran's egregious human rights records and nuclear weapons ambitions," Lisa Daftari, editor-in-chief of The Foreign Desk, told Fox News Digital.
The Trump administration sanctioned Raisi for his role in carrying out the massacre of 5,000 Iranian political prisoners in 1988 and the clerical regime's slaughter of 1,500 Iranian demonstrators in 2019.
Daftari, who has written extensively about Iran, noted that by "Allowing him to come onto U.S. soil legitimizes a man who has a long history of wholesale executions, funding global terrorism, and to this moment, continues his wrath on the peaceful protesters in Iran. Why would the U.S. allow for the whitewashing of such heinous crimes to offer an invitation to a man who should be marginalized and condemned instead?"
Late last week, a group of Republican Senators introduced legislation to push the Biden administration to bar Raisi from entering the United States ahead of his Tuesday speech at the U.N. in New York City. Raisi seeks the assassinations of Americans, according to Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz., R-Texas.
In a press release issued to promote the bill to ban Raisi, Rubio stated, "Raisi actively supports terrorism and wants to kill American citizens. Although I'm not surprised he wants to reunite with the many other murderers and thugs who claim membership at the United Nations, Raisi should not be allowed into the United States. Our bill would accomplish what the Biden Administration appears unwilling to do: ban Raisi's entrance into the country and protect our national security."
The Iranian regime was accused this year of seeking to kidnap and murder the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad from her Brooklyn, New York City, home.
Cruz noted that "Raisi would already be excluded from entering the United States for the U.N. General Assembly if President Biden and his administration were enforcing existing statutes in good faith. Raisi has a record of terrorist activities, including his advocacy for the assassination of President Trump and other U.S. officials. He is also listed by the State Department as ineligible for entering the United States because of mass atrocities he committed. Nevertheless, the Biden administration seems set on circumventing these restrictions."
A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, "As host nation of the U.N., the United States is generally obligated under the U.N. Headquarters Agreement to issue visas to representatives of U.N. member states to travel to the U.N. headquarters district for official U.N. business." The spokesperson added, "The United States takes seriously its obligations as host country of the U.N. under the U.N. Headquarters Agreement. At the same time, the Biden Administration has not and will not waver in protecting and defending all Americans."
When asked if the U.N. would ban Raisi from speaking, U.N. secretary-general spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told Fox News Digital, "We do not have comments on a proposed bill in the U.S. legislature. The United States obviously has the right to control its own borders. The U.S. also has commitments in terms of the U.N. Headquarters Agreement of 1947, which sets out the U.S.'s responsibilities as host nation vis-à-vis the U.N."
When asked about U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' view of the alleged mass murders carried out by Raisi, Dujarric said, "As a matter of principle, a U.N. secretary-general does not have the authority to declare anyone guilty of a crime. That's for a competent international or national court. That being said, the SG has publicly and privately expressed his concern about the human rights situation in Iran, especially as it concerns women and girls."
The New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reportedly invited Raisi to speak, sparking widespread outrage among Iranian-Americans and human rights activists. CFR did not respond to numerous Fox News Digital press queries as to the reported appearance of Raisi.
When asked about the reported CFR event with Raisi, a State Department spokesperson referred Fox News Digital to comments made by Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesperson, last week.
Miller said, "With respect to the president of Iran being hosted at a [think tank] in New York, I won't speak to that in particular. They're obviously an independent organization that can make their own decisions. But I would say that when any organization hosts such a figure with a long history of spreading mistruths and saying the things that are ... making claims that are not accurate, we would just urge them to watch very carefully what he says, make sure they hold him accountable, make sure that their members have full access to truthful, accurate information. And I would expect that they would do that."
Iranian-American organizations and groups are planning to protest against Raisi on Tuesday outside the U.N.'s headquarters in Manhattan.
Lawdan Bazargan, the director of the California-based Alliance Against Islamic Regime of Iran Apologists (AARIA), will travel to NYC to protest against Raisi. She is leading a campaign to oust the Iranian regime's former ambassador to the U.N., Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, from his teaching post at Oberlin College for his alleged role in covering up the 1988 massacre at the world body.
Soona Samsami, the representative in the U.S. for the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), whose organization has planned a large Tuesday protest, told Fox New Digital, "At a time when the Iranian people are courageously taking to the streets, demanding the overthrow of the ruling theocratic regime, it is shameful for [the] United Nations to offer its platform to Ebrahim Raisi, whose transgressions are punctuated by his role on the notorious 'death commission,' which executed 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 following a fatwa targeting supporters of the main Iranian opposition group, the MEK."
MEK is an abbreviation for Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the main member of the NCRI.
Samsami said the "U.N. should move to prosecute Raisi and other regime leaders for their blatant human rights violations." She added that Raisi is responsible for the murders of 750 Iranians who took to the streets to demonstrate against the killing of the 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini last September.
Amini died in a Tehran hospital on Sept 16, 2022, after she was reportedly tortured by Iranian security forces for not properly covering her hair with a hijab.
Raisi's speech to the U.N. coincides with his regime receiving a $6 billion payment in sanctions release from Biden on Monday in exchange for five American hostages. Biden has faced criticism for abandoning residents of America who are deemed to be U.S. citizens under the Levinson Act.
Iran's regime kidnapped legal California resident and dissident journalist Jamshid (Jimmy) Sharmahd in the UAE and sentenced him to death. Jamshid's daughter, Gazelle, sent Fox News Digital a statement on Monday that she posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
She wrote to the Biden administration on X: "How do you ensure my dad will be safe and alive and not murdered now? Instead of wasting your time on national TV trying to convince us that our hostage takers will use the money for humanitarian reason[s] explain to us how and when will you bring Jimmy Sharmahd back home to us? The last American patriot left behind in a hostage release in 2015 was Bob Levinson, and we all know that cost him his life."
Benjamin Weinthal, a Middle East Forum writing fellow, reports on Israel, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Europe for Fox News Digital. Follow him on Twitter at @BenWeinthal.