In a letter sent to the president of USA Wrestling, Bruce Baumgartner, Iranian wrestler Alireza Dabir wrote, “I am very sorry to announce that the national wrestling team of the Islamic Republic of Iran, due to not granting visas to 6 members of this team, is not able to participate in a friendly match with the U.S. national team.”
Fox News Digital broke the story in January that Dabir, who obtained a U.S. residency green card, urged the violent destruction of America during an event celebrating the life and work of the U.S.-designated terrorist Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani led the Quds Force, a division of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a U.S.-designated terrorist entity that has been responsible for killing more than 600 American military personnel. He died in a targeted killing in January 2020, slain by an American drone strike in Baghdad.
Dabir won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Sardar Pashaei, the Iranian American former head coach of Iran’s national Greco-Roman wrestling team, told Fox News Digital, “I am glad that the U.S. State Department did not issue visas to those who said ‘Death to America’ and at the same time wanted to enter the United States. This policy must be implemented by the U.S. government against all Iranian officials who hate the United States. Why should people like [former Iranian Vice President] Masoumeh Ebtekar, who took the U.S. embassy hostage in Iran and humiliated Americans, have her family in the U.S.?”
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Pashaei, himself a former world champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, added, “The reaction of the USA Wrestling on this issue was very unfortunate. During this time, they remained completely silent and continued to try to bring in Iranian officials who threatened the American people. We urge USA Wrestling sponsors, including the Marine Corps, to reconsider their support for the U.S. wrestling federation.”
Rich Bender, the executive director of USA Wrestling, previously declined to answer Fox News Digital queries about Dabir’s loathing of America and his call for the violent destruction of the United States.
Pashaei manages the United for Navid organization, which campaigns to secure justice for the murdered Iranian Greco-Roman wrestler Navid Afkari. Iran’s theocratic regime executed Afkari in September 2020 for his role in a 2018 protest against its political and economic corruption. The clerical state’s opaque judiciary in Shiraz, where Afkari was hanged, claimed he killed a security guard tracking the demonstrators, but the prosecution provided no proof that Afkari committed murder. The Trump administration sanctioned prison and judicial officials for the murder of Afkari.
Masih Alinejad, an Iranian American journalist and women’s rights campaigner and the founder of United for Navid, tweeted: “‘Death to America’ getting [i.e., preventing] Alireza Dabir, Iran’s wrestling chief from coming to America. He also defends war criminal Gassem Soleimani in this video. @UnitedForNavid is the voice of Iranian people who never support a terrorist & refusing to say dealt h to [email protected]_pashaei.”
The Iranian regime-controlled Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, pinned the blame on Fox News Digital’s exposure of Dabir’s anti-American tirade and Pashaei for the cancellation of the wrestling competition in Texas.
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In January, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital on “The U.S. and Iranian Wrestling teams are scheduled to compete against one another in an event planned for February 12, 2022, called ‘The Bout at the Ballpark.’
“Matters involving visa issuance for any individual members of the Iranian team are subject to Privacy Act concerns and will be adjudicated strictly in accordance with U.S. law,” the spokesperson continued.
”As National Security Advisor [Jake] Sullivan said earlier this week, ‘We are united in our resolve against threats and provocations. We are united in the defense of our people. We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran. Should Iran attack any of our nationals… it will face severe consequences.’”
Benjamin Weinthal is a Jerusalem-based journalist and a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. You can follow Benjamin on Twitter, @BenWeinthal