Former NATO chief can’t get U.S. visa because he visited Iran

Javier Solana, a retired head of NATO and former top foreign-policy adviser to the European Union.


The United States denied a Spanish former head of NATO authorization to enter U.S. territory over a work trip to Iran. Javier Solana, who headed NATO from 1995 to 1999 and was the European Union’s foreign-policy chief until 2009, said that he applied for a visa renewal on the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), only to get an application rejection notice.

It was the first time that the United States has ever denied Solana permission to enter, he said. Solana was scheduled to visit Washington to speak at an event at the Brookings Institution, where he is also a fellow.

Solana attributed the rejection to a trip he made to Iran in 2013, where he participated in negotiations for the now-defunct 2015 nuclear accord. He said that he visited Iran “as a representative for all those who negotiated.”

This trip was a problem because Solana was applying online via the ESTA’s system, which all European nationals are expected to use if they intend to stay in the United States for three months or more. In 2016, the Obama administration enacted a Congressionally approved bill that prohibited citizens of 38 countries from getting visas if they had visited Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen.

The measure did not apply to government officials. But Solana has not been a government official since 2013.

“What they (the US) have is a computer with an algorithm, and if it knows you went to Iran recently, it takes you off the system,” Solana said.

Solana can come to the United States if he applies for a “full visa.” This is a lengthier and costlier process.



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