DES MOINES - Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Tuesday called on President Obama to block Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from speaking at the United Nations - a violation of long-standing international treaty obligations.
At a campaign appearance here, Bachmann called the Iranian leader an enemy of Israel and said he should be barred from this week's meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
"He has proven he is in violation of the United Nations charter and of international law," Bachmann declared. "Since he is, in the most literal sense, an outlaw, he should not be allowed in the United States of America."
Iran's hostility to Israel has caused controversy before. In 2009, some diplomats walked out of Ahmedinejad's speech to the U.N. because of its virulent anti-Semitism. Bachmann's forceful declaration may be politically savvy at a time when Republicans are trying to take advantage of some Jewish voters' apparent disaffection with Mr. Obama's Middle East policies.
But under the treaty that established world's international peacekeeping body, what she's asking would be illegal. The 18-acre site on the east side of Manhattan that is occupied by the United Nations headquarters is international territory. Because of that, the United States is obligated to allow access for leaders of the body's 193 member nations.
Over the years, that has meant providing a forum to many leaders with views antithetical to those of the United States. In 2006, when George W. Bush was president, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez denounced him as a "devil" from the U.N. podium. Nor is Bachmann -- a member of the House Intelligence Committee -- the first politician to try to make an issue of the presence of a dictator at the U.N.'s annual fall meeting for world leaders. In 1995, then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani barred Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat from attending a Lincoln Center concert held in honor of the U.N.'s 50th anniversary, prompting a scolding from the Clinton administration.
One U.S. official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record about international treaty obligations, argued that letting even the world's noxious leaders have their say serves a purpose.
"As the host nation of United Nations headquarters, the United States has treaty obligations to permit world leaders to come to New York to speak to the United Nations," the official said. "That said, I think it's pretty clear, when President Ahmadinejad comes to New York and dusts off his tired, hateful anti-Semitic talking points, he reminds the world why his regime continues to be isolated."