Rep. Peter King: Expel Iranian Diplomats Because They “Advance Iran’s Interest”

October 27, 2011 2:45 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the crusading chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, appeared on CNN's The Situation Room yesterday and dropped this bombshell: Iranian diplomats — whom he wants expelled from the U.S. in contravention of international agreements — are here to "advance Iran's interest." King made the comments after host Wolf Blitzer asked him to substantiate his claim that Iranian diplomats are connected to alleged terrorist plots within the United States.

KING: I'm saying that they clearly have ties to those in Iran who do those things. We know this from both common sense and observation, from talking to people in the community that these people, whether it's actual terrorist activities or dealing with other countries or just facilitating activities either with them or with Hezbollah, the fact is they are over here for an ulterior purpose, it is not diplomacy. It's to advance Iran's interest and, as I said, there have been instances in the past where we've actually caught them doing it, but from people I've spoken to, in the intelligence and law enforcement community, they're no doubt at all.


Earlier in the month, the Justice Department indicted an Iranian-American for conspiring to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Though administration officials believe the plot was approved by top officials in Tehran, they have, according to Reuters, "acknowledged the claim was based on analysis rather than hard evidence."

King has called the plot "an act of war" and reiterated that point during yesterday's hearing on Iranian Terror Operations on American Soil, in which he said, "Iran has been an enemy for many years" and accused Iranian diplomats of being spies. King also called on the administration to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corp as a foreign terrorist organization and to ratchet up its sanctions regime against Iran's central bank (something the administration has considered following revelation of the alleged plot).

Last month, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, called on U.S. officials to open "channels of communication" with Iran. "We are not talking to Iran so we don't understand each other. If something happens it's virtually assured that we won't get it right, that there will be miscalculations, which would be extremely dangerous in that part of the world," Mullen said during a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace.

It's not surprising that King is a hawk on Iran. But it is curious that he finds some ominous significance in Iranian diplomats advancing their country's interests. As Ben Armbruster observes, "Based on those parameters, King should start working on the deportation papers for every foreign diplomat residing in the United States."

King's disregard for an unambiguous U.N. agreement (which states that diplomats are allowed to travel to New York "irrespective" of the relationship between the U.S. and the diplomat's country) is part of a larger trend within the Republican Party to distance the U.S. from the multinational body, which many Republicans see as anti-American.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is pushing a measure to defund many critical U.N. agencies, including UNICEF. The campaign comes despite the fact that having the U.N. on American soil not only increases our ability to conduct important diplomacy but also brings tremendous benefit to the U.S. economy and, in particular, to New York City. According to the United Nations Foundation, the estimated benefit of having the U.N. headquartered in the states is $4.13 billion, with most of that benefit going to New York City. By contrast, the U.S. gives the U.N. Secretariat an estimated $2.5 billion. Given New York's economic problems right now, a friendlier attitude toward an institution that creates all that revenue might make sense, especially for a New York representative. But, of course, Peter King has other priorities.

[h/t: ThinkProgress]