Re-establishing a U.S. Diplomatic Presence in Iran: Advancing US National Security and Serving American Citizens
Re-establishing a U.S.
Diplomatic Presence in Iran:
Advancing U.S. National Security
and Serving American Citizens
US and Iran
Loss of U.S. Diplomatic Presence in Iran
and its Impact on U.S. National Security
Ability to understand and successfully
impact events in Iran, Middle East
The State of Nature
Foreign policy formulation
and execution through/with
On the Ground
Lack of Locus of Policy Discipline
The American Foreign Policy Process
The Legacy of 1979 and the
Iranian American community
• Iranian Americans feel U.S.-Iran estrangement most acutely
• No U.S. diplomatic presence in Iran makes their travel to Iran
much more difficult and sometimes dangerous
• Family members of Iranian Americans struggle to obtain visas
to visit their family in U.S., even for major life events or
• PAAIA polling indicates a strong majority of Iranian Americans
favor re-establishing a US diplomatic presence in Iran,
especially for consular services
Arguments for Reestablishing U.S.
Diplomatic Presence In Iran
NATIONAL SECURITY & SERVING AMERICAN CITIZENS
• Engagement with Iranian Government on Bilateral Issues
• Greatly Enhanced American Citizen Services
• Immigrant & Nonimmigrant Visa Services
• Public Affairs Activities
• Political/Economic Reporting & Analysis
Arguments Against Re-establishing a
U.S. Diplomatic Presence in Iran
• “Rewarding Bad Behavior”
• “Iranian Government Will Refuse”
• “Unacceptable Security Risk”
• “Betrayal of Iranian Opposition”
Have these positions led to achieving US national security
goals? Then perhaps time to change from State of Nature
The Current Context Offers a
• Unprecedented Presidential and Foreign Minister/Secretary of
State level engagement
• Interim P5+1 agreement November 2013, implementation
started in January 2014
• Negotiations, while difficult, continue to make progress
• Re-established diplomatic presence would not set back, and in
fact would bolster progress on nuclear negotiations and other
bilateral and regional issues
Nuts & Bolts of Re-establishing U.S.
Diplomatic Presence in Iran
The Current Context:
• U.S. Interests Section in Tehran administered through Swiss
Embassy (very limited ACS and visa functions)
• Iranian Interests Section in Washington administered through
Pakistani Embassy (citizen services and visa functions)
• Iranian Permanent Representative to United Nations in NY
(can not travel beyond UN environs without DOS permission)
• Iranians apply for US visas at US diplomatic posts in 3rd
countries (UAE, Turkey, and Armenia)
• State’s Virtual Embassy Tehran provides information, including
consular information, online
A Tehran U.S. Interests Section
with American Diplomats
BASED UPON: US policy, State Department policy & procedures,
Congressional oversight, and Iranian government policy
1) Site visit to existing US Interests Section – security
2) Use and/or upgrade, or secure new facility
3) Foreign Service Officers, FS Specialists on TDY rotations
4) FS Officers & Specialists on PCS assignment, prob. unaccomp.
5) Security a paramount issue given legacy of 1979
- Iran must reaffirm adherence to Vienna Conventions on
Diplomatic and Consular Relations
LATER, If conditions permit: US Liaison Office, US Embassy
Staffing Priorities for an Initial U.S.
Diplomatic Presence in Iran
• A Principal Officer to direct operations and serve as primary liaison with the Iranian
• One or more Consular Officers to perform American Citizen Services and at least some visa
• One or more Regional Security Officers to ensure security of the facilities and staff.
• One or more Public Affairs Officers to support U.S.-Iran exchange programs and respond to
• One or more Information Management Specialists to establish and maintain information
• One or more Management Officers to establish and maintain housing, shipping, property
allocation, travel, and personnel functions.
• One or more Political/Economic Officers to follow on the ground developments in Iran.
Lessons from U.S. Diplomatic History
• History offers insights into process and reasons for reestablishing U.S. diplomatic presence in Iran.
• All these changes based upon same primary question:
Was changing/maintaining diplomatic relations in the longterm national security interest of the United States?
The Legacy of the Hostage Crisis
• Islamic Republic still commemorates the embassy seizure
every November 4th.
• Embassy seizure considered by many a foundational event of
the Islamic Revolution, and the Islamic Republic.
• This narrative, and reality on the ground must change to make
U.S. diplomatic presence possible.
1) Iran should end the annual commemoration on Nov. 4
2) Iranian government should quietly offer some form of
compensation to individual hostages and their families
3) Iran must explicitly reaffirm Vienna Conventions to ensure
these events never recur
• Moving beyond past and re-establishing U.S. diplomatic
presence in Iran at first limited, incremental, and reversible, is
in the national security interest of the United States
• This step enjoys the strong support of those American citizens
most acutely impacted, the Iranian American community
• If legacy of 1979 is addressed through concrete actions and
agreements, even most American hostages would support
• Based upon all points presented, would this step help achieve
key national security goals and serve American citizens more
effectively than past approaches?