Reuters: A researcher for the U.S. Congress was turned back en route to Iran for a security conference when his visa was rescinded at the last moment, he said on Monday. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A researcher for the U.S. Congress was turned back en route to Iran for a security conference when his visa was rescinded at the last moment, he said on Monday.
Kenneth Katzman, senior Middle East expert with the Congressional Research Service, which conducts research for Congress, said he believed that Iranians opposed to engagement with the United States had barred him from the event.
“Perhaps the anti-engagers threatened to have their people turn me back at Tehran airport. The conference organizers were forced by this pressure to back down and tell me not to come,” Katzman told Reuters.
Katzman had been invited to the conference sponsored by the Iranian foreign ministry’s thinktank and Tehran University.
The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic ties since the 1979 Islamic revolution and relations have grown steadily more tense in recent years because of disputes over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and support for Islamic militants such as Hizbollah.
Katzman said it was the first time a U.S. government representative had been invited to the conference, which focused on security in the Gulf.
He only found out his visa had been rescinded while he was waiting for a connecting flight in Frankfurt airport.
By contrast, the Bush administration gave former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami an unrestricted visa to visit the United States this month, including stops in New York, Chicago, and Washington for speeches and news conferences.
“Clearly there is a faction with a lot of power that does not want engagement with the U.S.,” Katzman said.
Katzman said he did not believe his academic paper, which was submitted in advance, was the problem. It talked about new security arrangements in the Gulf, including possibly bringing NATO, Russia and China into the mix.