The United States is irked that Iran has chosen as its representative to the
But the Obama administration is making a mistake in publicly labeling as "not viable" the posting to the U.N. of Hamid Aboutalebi, an experienced diplomat aligned with Iran's reformist President
Aboutalebi was 22 years old when he served as an interpreter for the students who had seized the embassy out of pent-up anger over long-standing U.S. support for the autocratic shah of Iran. It's not unknown for youthful radicals to mature into middle-aged statesmen. As a young leftist in 1970s West Germany, Joschka Fischer took part in violent street demonstrations and was photographed attacking a policeman. Decades later, he served as foreign minister of a united Germany.
But even if the Aboutalebi of today were an unreconstructed anti-American, the U.S. would be wrong to try to prevent him from taking up a position at the U.N. Having agreed to serve as host country of the international organization, the U.S. shouldn't interfere in decisions by member states about their representation in that body any more than it should block foreign leaders it objects to from addressing the U.N. (Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, Cuban President
Finally, the administration's fixation on Aboutalebi may be unintentionally undermining efforts by several nations to induce Iran to abandon efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Some of the U.S. senators who approved a bill this week purporting to bar Aboutalebi from entering this country also support additional sanctions legislation that the administration believes would derail the current