By Jubin Katiraie

The US has tightened travel restrictions on over a dozen Iranian diplomats and their families living in New York, according to a US diplomatic note sent to the Iran mission to the United Nations on July 12.

These diplomats are subject to the same restrictions that the US imposed on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who arrived in the country on Sunday amid heightened tensions between the two nations.

The diplomats are only allowed to travel between the United Nations headquarters, the Iranian UN mission, the Iranian UN ambassador’s residence and John F. Kennedy airport. There is also a carve out for the six blocks surrounding Queensboro Plaza in Long Island City in the borough of Queens, but it’s not clear why.

The travel rules apply to “all members of the permanent mission of Iran to the United Nations, their immediate family members, and representatives of the Iranian government to the United Nations”. The UN said that there are 13 Iranian diplomats living in New York.

The note said that any other travel would require a waiver from the US State Department Office of Foreign Missions and that all requests must be made at least five days in advance. It also requires Iran’s UN mission to submit residential and hotel accommodations for approval.

Before the new rules, Iranian diplomats - like envoys of North Korea, Syria and Cuba - were already confined to a radius of 25 miles from Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan. According to the U.N. Blue Book, which lists diplomats of each mission to the world body, there are 13 Iranian diplomats in New York.

Before the new rules, Iranian diplomats were already confined to a radius of 25 miles from Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan. While the US is generally required to allow access to the UN for foreign diplomats, Washington says it can deny visas for “security, terrorism, and foreign policy” reasons.

Regarding Zarif specifically, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he was only being granted a visa as part of the US’s obligation toward the UN, but that Zarif was “being admitted to the United States for the sole purpose of attending U.N. meetings” and that “he should restrict his activities to U.N.-related business only”.

He said: “US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either.”

Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran, said: “We have largely working with our diplomatic security, but we put in place the necessary protocols to ensure that they stay within that six-block radius.”

US-Iran tensions have been rising ever since Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program and imposed sanctions on Iran.