Iran Warns US on Visa Waiver Act

December 17, 2015
Iranian officials have warned that changes to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program could be a violation of the nuclear deal. On December 20, 102 Iranian lawmakers sent a letter to President Rouhani condemning the move and demanding government action. House Resolution 158, which passed 407 to 19 on December 8, aimed to tighten visa-free travel to the United States. Citizens of 38 countries, including many E.U. member states, can currently fly to the United States without applying for a visa. The rule, signed into law by President Obama on December 18 as part of a $1.1 trillion spending bill, requires citizens of those 38 states to apply for a visa after having traveled to Iran for pleasure or business in the past five years. The restriction applies to dual citizens as well.
An earlier version of the bill only required visas for those who travelled to “terrorist hotspots,” such as Iraq and Syria. But Iran and Sudan were added to the list of countries because of their designation as “state sponsors of terrorism” by Washington. The restriction applies to dual citizens of those four countries as well.The legislation was intended to make it more difficult for terrorists who hold E.U. or other citizenships to enter the United States. The following are reactions by Iranian officials to H.R. 148.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
“This visa-waiver thing is absurd. Has anybody in the West been targeted by any Iranian national, anybody of Iranian origin, or anyone travelling to Iran? Whereas many people have been targeted by the nationals of your allies, people visiting your allies, and people transiting the territory of, again, your allies. So you’re looking at the wrong address…”
—Dec. 17, 2015, in an interview with The New Yorker
“Unfortunately, there are mixed signals coming from Washington, mostly negative signals, including the visa waiver program restrictions. Now we await for the decision by the administration on how it wants to bring itself into compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA.”
“I have had discussions with Secretary Kerry and others on this for the past several days since it’s become known that this was the intention. And I wait for them to take action.”
—Dec. 19, 2015, in an interview with Al Monitor
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
“Although it is not an important issue, it is aimed at harassment and is against the paragraphs 28 and 29 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”
“If the Americans pursue the plan, they will destroy an achievement with their own hands since it is against the JCPOA and it will trouble them.”
—Dec. 17, 2015, in a speech in Qom
Deputy Foreign Minister Syed Abbas Araghchi
“The U.S. Congress's approval has different legal aspects which are being studied and if it is against the contents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), we will take action against it.”
“We are in consultation with the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) and specially the EU (Foreign Policy) Coordinator (Federica Mogherini) to show the necessary reaction in this regard.”

—Dec. 13, 2015, to reporters in Tehran 


“The law Obama signed contradicts JCPOA. Definitely, this law adversely affects economic, cultural, scientific and tourism relations.”

—Dec. 20, 2015, according to state television


Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi
“It is true that they [Americans] have set restrictions on citizens of other countries but they have committed such a violation indirectly.”

—Dec. 20, 2015, according to Press TV