By Banafsheh Zand and Sophie Baron
In July, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Khomeinist regime’s foreign minister, traveled to New York for the annual session of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). As a proviso for his stay in New York, the US imposed restrictions that limited Zarif, his entourage and their families, to traveling between JFK airport, the UN headquarters, the Islamic regime’s mission, the permanent representative’s residence, and a six-block area in Long Island City.
In September, in order to attend the United Nations General Assembly, the US government extended those restrictions imposed on Zarif to the President of the Islamic regime, Hassan Rouhani, as well.
Previously, they had been permitted to roam around a 25-mile radius of Manhattan’s Columbus Circle.
Now, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Tehran’s permanent representative to the U.N., is receiving cancer treatment at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering facility; and Mohammad Javad Zarif is barred from visiting him, as the hospital is outside the permissible roaming parameters. Zarif, Tehran’s Machiavellian enfant terrible, has once again raised hell about this in the U.S. media.
Brian Hook, the US State Department’s special representative for Iran, judiciously offered a solution for Zarif to visit Takht-Ravanchi. He called on Tehran to release one of the US citizens currently imprisoned in Iran, in exchange for Zarif’s roaming restrictions to be extended enough to include the hospital where his comrade was being treated.
Hook’s offer was appropriate, as it was announced this month that Michael White, a US Navy veteran who has been sentenced to ten years in prison in the northeastern Iranian city of Mash’had since July, 2018, is also suffering from cancer. Unlike the regime diplomat however, White’s life is said to be in danger, due to the inadequate medical care he is receiving under the Khomeinist judiciary’s watch. His family has also been prohibited from visiting, or even speaking to, him.
Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, who has been justifiably critical of the Islamic regime’s human rights violations, tweeted examples of Zarif’s trademark hypocrisy and distortion on Sunday.
You deny the Iranian people access to this US technology and social media sites. And you continue to take hostages. Your hypocrisy knows no bounds. https://t.co/tSnesetoXL
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) September 28, 2019
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) September 28, 2019
Arrested and convicted on charges of “insulting the Supreme Leader (Ali Khamenei) and posting private photos on social media,” White, who does not speak Persian, was never allowed to hear the direct charges levelled against him, nor was he permitted to prepare a defense. Having travelled to Mash’had, to visit his Iranian girlfriend, White and his family assert that he was not involved in any political action whatsoever.
Michael White’s family cannot see or talk to him, even via FaceTime. He has cancer too. And while your friend is receiving world class care at @sloan_kettering, he is being held hostage at Mashhad’s notorious Vakilabad prison. He was arrested while he was visiting his girlfriend. pic.twitter.com/tzYRdwRRvw
— Reza Behrouz (@RBehrouzDO) September 28, 2019
Michael White’s situation is far from unique. Currently, there are a number of American citizens detained in Iran, the most notable case being that of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007. The regime has refused over these past 12 years to divulge any news regarding his whereabouts or his fate.
The first western hostage taking orchestrated by the Khomeinist regime was, of course, the invasion of the US embassy in November 1979. Ironically, the regime seized the American diplomats in order to demand that the US return Iran’s Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was then being treated for the cancer that would kill him several months later, at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the same New York hospital where Majid Takht-Ravanchi is now.
At that time, the Khomeinists would not let a dying man spend his last months in peace, insisting that the Shah’s illness was “faked,” and going so far as to demand that a regime doctor be allowed to examine him. Javad Zarif, who at that time was an active agent of the Khomeinist regime in the US, organized deafening protests in front of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, demanding the ousting of the Shah from the hospital and the U.S. altogether. The irony here is too delicious to ignore, however, as he himself now faces the joke of destiny.
Below Tweet translation: “You see Mohammad Javad Zarif, who stands in front of a New York hospital and says death to the Shah? Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (May he rest in peace) went to the United States on October 22, 1979 to undergo cancer treatment at the same New York hospital.”
محمد جواد ظریف را می بینید که مقابل بیمارستان نیویورک ایستاده و مرگ بر شاه می گوید. محمدرضا پهلوی (رحمت الله علیه) در ۳۰ مهر ۱۳۵۸ به آمریکا رفته بود تا در بیمارستان نیویورک تحت درمان سرطان قرار گیرد pic.twitter.com/vJyYFIve42
— aqarezabahrami (@aqarezabahrami) November 25, 2018
Meanwhile, Iranians both inside and outside have been criticizing Zarif on social media; on the one hand reminding him of his hypocrisy vis a vis his own actions in 1979, and on the other, the dichotomy of his representation of a regime that separated many Iranian families, and barred those exiled for political reasons, from seeing or talking to their relatives.
Thanks to technology we are able to see our beloved relatives, parents and grandparents, crying and saying goodbye while they are dying in hospitals in Iran without being able to see their children who had to flee the country because of you and your fellow government. @JZarif https://t.co/L0RpEwrPtJ
— ShabnamTolouei شبنم طلوعی (@TolShabnam) September 28, 2019
Iranians living in Iran, however, are using the Takht- Ravanchi case to raise awareness of the poor state of medical care in Iran; all due to corruption within the regime’s health care system, and their constant diverting of state budget funds from medical to other sectors, specifically military. Thus, the same Tehran officials who shout, “Death to America,” travel to the U.S., when they are ill, a privilege denied to the people.
Even former U.S. Embassy hostage-taker Abbas Abdi, now a journalist and member of the editorial board of Salam, a reformist faction newspaper, tweeted and said: “Mr. Takht-Ravanchi is hospitalized for cancer treatment in the US and the US government has obliged and provided him with the best conditions for receiving medical care. I recommend that he return to Iran as soon as possible and continue treatment under the supervision of Iranian doctors. He may not be treated better here than there, but it certainly would not be worse.”
آقای تختروانچی برای درمان سرطان در بیمارستانی در امریکا بستری هستند و دولت آمریکا منت گذاشته که در بهترین شرایط درمان میشوند. توصیه میکنم که ایشان در اولین فرصت به ایران بیاید و درمان خود را تحتنظر پزشکان ایرانی ادامه دهد. اگر بهتر از آنجا درمان نشوند مطمئناً بدتر نخواهد بود.
— عباس عبدی (@abb_abdi) September 28, 2019