EDITORIAL: Another red line for Obama, this time with Iran, Aboutalebi

The president must not allow Iran’s diplomatic insult to stand

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Old wounds can heal, but not if they’re continually picked at. Iran is a wound that never closes, owing to the Islamic regime’s determined efforts to prevent it.

Iran has chosen a man who joined in the sacking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking American diplomats hostage in 1979, as its ambassador to the United Nations. President Obama, despite his deference in the face of Islamic insult, must not bow to this calculated affront.

Iran has applied for the necessary visa for Hamid Aboutalebi, 56, enabling him to enter the United States and become Iran’s top diplomat in New York. Mr. Aboutalebi hasn’t always been a student of civil discourse. He was among the radical “students” who stormed the U.S. compound in violation of internationally recognized law.

Americans of a certain age will not forget their bitter anger at watching 52 countrymen paraded, bound and blindfolded, through the streets of Tehran, nor the endless anxiety felt while the American diplomats were held prisoner for 444 days. Hostage-taking is the credential of a terrorist, not of a diplomatic host.

The State Department has so far refused to say whether it will issue the visa allowing Mr. Aboutalebi to enter the United States. First, the department wants to gauge the political winds blowing across Washington. On Capitol Hill, a gale is rising, and it’s pointing in only one direction.

Iran’s sending a central figure in the outrage in Tehran “is not an accident,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tells Fox News. “It’s designed to be a slap in the face.” Mr. Cruz says he will introduce legislation to prevent the likes of Mr. Aboutalebi — those with a history of terrorism — from entering the United States.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who doesn’t agree with Mr. Cruz on much, is equally opposed to the envoy setting foot on U.S. soil.

The Iranian regime has a long history of face-slapping. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made insulting America an annual ritual on his visits to New York for the opening session of the United Nations. Tedious and long-winded harangues against American foreign policy from the General Assembly podium and sit-downs with notorious extremists, such as Louis Farrakhan, the minister of the Nation of Islam, and members of the New Black Panther Party were commonplace during his eight years in office.

For the mullahs, humiliation isn’t simply a function of personal animosity, but a systematic exercise for psychologically debilitating an adversary. They obviously think that Christians, Jews and other “infidels” must learn their place and stay in it, and that no other nation, possibly excepting Israel, needs the discipline of humiliation more than the “Great Satan.”

Iran’s instincts for power are sure and true. With talks over Iran’s nuclear program to start again in Vienna this week, the regime is determined to protect its nuclear assets, soon to be operational, with a curtain of gall.

Mr. Obama must overcome whatever reluctance to offend radical Islam he has and draw a red line around a visa for Mr. Aboutalebi, and for once allow no one to erase it.

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