Just as Iran and the United States seem to be emerging from a diplomatic freeze that started with the 1979 hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran, Iran has appointed a new ambassador with links to that very incident.
Hamid Aboutalebi has served as an Iranian diplomat in posts across Europe and Australia over the last several years. It wasn't until he applied for an American visa to begin his new role as Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations did his place in the organization that seized the American embassy in 1979 first garner notice. The infamous stand-off, in which 52 American hostages were held captive, lasted for 444 days.
For his part, Aboutalebi doesn't deny his membership in the group Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line that took over the embassy, but he downplays his involvement in actual capture of the building.
Aboutalebi has said he didn’t take part in the initial occupation of the embassy, and acted as translator and negotiator, according to an interview he gave to the Khabaronline news website in Iran.
Will that explanation and his previous decades of service for Iran's diplomatic mission be enough? With midterm elections ahead in the United States, Aboutalebi's case would make for some easy political point-scoring if he winds up representing Iran on American soil. In addition to the fact that Iran has never compensated the American hostages that were held, there's also this:
In 1980 Aboutalebi, along with Abbas Abdi, a student instrumental in the US Embassy takeover, traveled to Algeria to invite representatives from several “liberation movements” to attend a meeting in Tehran."
Let's see what Morgan Fairchild has to say about this:
Iran names controversial diplomat as UN envoy http://t.co/DQE6pX85zf— Morgan Fairchild (@morgfair) March 30, 2014
In other news, a deal over Iran nuclear program remains elusive as diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 group failed to make headway in Geneva this weekend.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.