Iran has named its next ambassador to the United Nations, and he's a member of the group that seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year.
If the State Department grants Hamid Aboutalebi a visa to enter the United States, it will be "a day of total embarrassment," says Barry Rosen, one of the hostages who were held in Tehran for 444 days.
The two states have no formal relations, but the U.S. has tried to re-engage with Iranian leadership since the election of President Hassan Rouhani. Iran's U.N. representative has facilitated back-channel communication between the nations in the past, according to CNN,
and Aboutalebi – who has served as Iran's ambassador to Australia, Belgium, Italy and the European Union – is said to have close ties to Rouhani.
Aboutalebi has said he didn't take part in the initial occupation of the U.S. embassy but worked as a translator and a negotiator during the standoff.
Rosen said that admitting Aboutalebi would be an affront to the former hostages and a signal of weakness from President Barack Obama.
"It's a test of the administration and it's a test of wills in many ways," Rosen said.
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Rosen said the U.S. efforts to negotiate with Iran will never be successful because Tehran will never hold up its end of the bargain.
"There are too many issues that are outstanding, and Iran will not live up to anything that it puts on paper," he said.
Rosen said he doesn't just want Aboutalebi's visa to be denied but would also like to see Obama make a public statement of opposition to Aboutalebi's ambassadorship.
Admitting Aboutalebi would be the day "my own country and its government turned its back on loyal American diplomats and military who carry out American foreign policy under the most extreme conditions and then were victims to terrorists for 444 days," Rosen said.
"Possibly it's no longer in the history books," he said, "but it certainly was a very important day in American history at one time."
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