Iran denies visas to GOP lawmakers

Iran denies visas to GOP lawmakers
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Iran on Tuesday mocked an attempt by three Republican lawmakers to visit the country, calling their request an “ironic” and “inappropriate” “publicity stunt.”

The three lawmakers — Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) — made formal requests in February to visit the country, inspect its nuclear sites and meet with an American held captive.

But months later, the Iran Foreign Ministry has dismissed the request as illegitimate.

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“In sum, we consider your visa request to have been a publicity stunt and not an appropriate request to visit a sovereign country; and it has, and will continue to be, treated in that spirit,” Iran said in a letter sent to them via the State Department and released to Iranian news outlets. 

“Despite what you seem to presume, members of the U.S. Congress do not get to dictate the policies of other countries,” the Foreign Ministry added. “This clearly applies to Iranian visa policies.”

The lawmakers had maintained that the request was serious, and meant to be timed to parliamentary elections later in February. They also wanted to be able to inspect Iran’s implementation of the nuclear deal, which had only recently resulted in the lifting of international sanctions.

“My two congressional colleagues and I followed all the necessary procedures — filling out applications, writing letters, meeting with staff, following up on the status, and even hand delivering our materials to the Iranian Interests Section — and still the Iranians refuse to reply in a civilized or respectful manner,” Pompeo said in a statement. “I ask the Iranian government again - grant me a visa.“

All three lawmakers vigorously opposed the nuclear pact and had fought to kill it in Congress.

On Tuesday, Zeldin said in a statement that he was not surprised by the “shameful” response, which, like the nuclear deal, “spits in the face of the freedom loving world.”

“As predicted, in denying our visa request Iran reaffirms that President Obama's new era of openness and cooperation, as sold to the American people and the world, is a farce,” added LoBiondo in a statement of his own.

Iran and the United States do not have a diplomatic relationship, the Iranians noted in their derisive letter.

Members of Congress lack any authority to “encroach upon Iranian sovereignty” to monitor aspects of the deal, the Foreign Ministry claimed.

And any access to government sites would be based on “reciprocal arrangements, and not upon unilateral demands by self-arrogating individuals or parliamentarians.”

The Foreign Ministry also noted that the U.S. had recently limited dual nationals of Iran or people who had recently traveled to the country from entering the U.S. without a visa. Despite opposition from Republicans, however, the Obama administration created a carve-out to ease movement following the completion of the nuclear deal. 

“Surely it is ironic that you believe that going to Iran would ‘radicalize’ and turn citizens of all other countries into ‘potential security risks’ for the United States; but you still seek to visit Iran and believe that such a visit will have no such radicalizing effect on you,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry claimed.

--This report was updated at 2:46 p.m.