The Hill

No, “The Butcher of Tehran” Isn’t Welcome Here

Media Fellow
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a rally outside the former US embassy in the capital Tehran on November 4, 2022, in Tehran, Iran. (Contributor via Getty Images)
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a rally outside the former US embassy in the capital Tehran on November 4, 2022, in Tehran, Iran. (Contributor via Getty Images)

This week, the president of the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism, Ebrahim Raisi, has been receiving a warm welcome in the United States. That’s right. Fresh off the Islamic Republic of Iran’s $6 billion payday, courtesy of President Joe Biden and his senior officials, Raisi has arrived in New York City for a victory tour.

Raisi—nicknamed the “Butcher of Tehran”—delivered a speech at the United Nations in Turtle Bay after attending a private, invitation-only meeting with high-profile influencers at the Millennium Hotel in Manhattan.

With so many prestigious invitations packed into his schedule, some might easily forget that he personally facilitated the murder of thousands of Iranians; that he approves of the hostage-taking of Americans and dual nationals; that his regime continues to plot terrorist attacks against the United States and assassinations of former U.S. officials; and that he hates the United States and our entire way of life.

But that’s the point. 

President Raisi is hoping that the world will simply forget and move one from his numerous atrocities. And so far, his strategy is working.

Recently, the Biden administration granted Iran access to over $6 billion in oil revenue in exchange for the release of five Americans wrongfully imprisoned in Iran. The White House claims the funds will be used only for humanitarian purposes, but of course that was never going to happen.

In a recent interview, Raisi clarified that “Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people needs…And the needs of the Iranian people will be decided and determined by the Iranian government.” In other words, it should be no surprise when he uses the funds to supply Iranian proxies with drones and missiles that target our allies and partners, instead of food and medicine.

And now, Raisi enjoys the luxury of freely walking the streets of New York with little pushback. As one commentator put it, “The sanctioned president of Iran is flying on a sanctioned aircraft on a Biden-approved visa to enter the US where he is actively plotting terror attacks on US citizens.” 

The truth is that by allowing a mass murderer and terrorist like Raisi into our country, bad actors around the globe will believe that they too can commit atrocities and still come out on top. It’s hard to square America’s role as a beacon for democracy with policies that allow murderous regimes to escape accountability.

Even worse, it’s unspeakably painful for Iranian-Americans living in New York who escaped Raisi’s political and religious persecution—only to hear about his warm welcome just blocks away. Many of them lost loved ones and close friends at his hands, but now the perpetrator of this bloodshed has a platform in the United States to spew his hatred. 

It didn’t have to be this way. Despite hosting the United Nations in New York, the president of the United States maintains the authority to deny a visa to any person deemed a threat to our nation. In fact, President Reagan’s administration denied a visa to Yasser Arafat who was scheduled to speak at the United Nations in 1988, citing his associations with terrorism. But Biden failed to exercise such authority, allowing the president of Iran to enter American airspace and land on American soil without a hassle.

U.S. House and Senate Republicans recently reintroduced legislation—the Strengthening Entry Visa Enforcement and Restrictions, or SEVER, Act—that would have banned Raisi from entering our country. As the bill’s sponsors wrote in an op-ed last year, the legislation would have also prohibited “a future president from using the loopholes the Biden administration did.”

The SEVER Act is a great start. But the American people should speak up too. Citizens on both sides of the aisle ought to be outraged that murderous autocrats feel comfortable visiting our great nation. Instead of fancy invitations and off-the-record chats with VIPs, Raisi should be greeted with nothing less than overwhelming protests from Americans who refuse to normalize terrorists.

The message should be loud and clear: Evil isn’t welcome here.

Read in The Hill.