GOP lawmakers ask to travel to Iran

A trio of hawkish House Republicans say that they want to visit Iran later this month to observe the country’s elections, inspect its nuclear sites and meet with an American held prisoner in the country.

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The lawmakers filed visa applications with the office representing Iran in Washington on Thursday and sent a letter asking for assistance from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the head of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari. 

Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said that they wanted to ensure Iran’s compliance with the controversial nuclear deal that was implemented earlier this year, which they opposed.

“Americans deserve credible, first hand confirmation of what present day reality is in Iran, regarding the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, status of American hostages and foreign policy objectives of Iranian leaders,” Zeldin said in a statement.

“If Iran is truly a partner in peace, as President Obama and Secretary [of State John] Kerry claim, then Iranian leaders should have no problem granting our visas and arranging the requested agenda,” added Pompeo. “I look forward to receiving a timely response from Iran.”

The request is likely to be viewed as a gimmick by supporters of the nuclear accord, which lifts international sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its ability to build a nuclear weapon. House Republicans worked diligently — though unsuccessfully — to undermine the pact last year, and since then they have tried to chop away at it.

In their letter to Khamenei and Jafari, the three lawmakers said that Iran’s Feb. 26 parliamentary elections would be “a historic occasion.”

“We look forward to seeing Iranian democracy in action,” they wrote, apparently with tongues in cheeks.

Last month, Iranian officials disqualified more than half the candidates for office, a move that was derided by rights groups.

“With elections being held at the end of this month, we trust a decision to grant our visa applications can be made without delay,” they wrote.

In addition to viewing the elections, Pompeo, Zeldin and LoBiondo asked Iranian leaders to schedule meetings with senior officials to discuss the nuclear effort. They also asked to visit the country's three nuclear facilities and to be updated on its recent ballistic missile tests and last month’s hours-long detention of 10 U.S. Navy sailors.

Finally, the lawmakers asked to meet with the remaining American held prisoner in Iran.

Four Americans of Iranian heritage were freed last month in exchange for Washington abandoning sanctions-related cases against 21 people in the U.S.

However, at least one other Iranian-American, businessman Siamak Namazi, remains in an Iranian prison. Many watchers also suspect that Tehran is holding out on knowledge of the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared while on a rogue effort in the region for the CIA in 2007.