Iran is sure to feel the heat at the UN General Assembly
Ahead of the general debate at the United Nations’ 73rd General Assembly, the atmosphere inside the UN is full of speculation over the possibility of an encounter between the presidents of the United States and Iran, both of whom will be attending the opening on September 25.
It is not a question of whether they will meet officially, as this option is not on the table for the Iranians, but US President Donald Trump is known for his unpredictable behavior and so some are wondering whether he will surprise everyone.
On Friday morning, Trump stirred things up on Twitter by posting: “I will Chair the United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran next week.”
This tweet came shortly after the US mission had changed the agenda of the meeting, on Sept. 26, from concentrating on Iran to non-proliferation. This gave journalists at the UN the impression that Trump had decided to go easy on Iran by addressing the broader issues, including North Korea and Syria.
There has been uncertainty in Tehran over who should represent Iran at the session to be chaired by Trump, with some internal sources suggesting Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will attend.
This 73rd session of the General Assembly perhaps will be the toughest one yet for Iran, despite having a moderate president and also the EU’s continued support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal as it is better known.
It will be tough because Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his team will have to confront many allegations and charges against their country as they make themselves available during these hearings.
Iran and Trump will make for an unpredictable week at the UN General Assembly this week.
The Iranian delegation is hoping to generate sympathy among the international community over what it considers to be the injustice of Trump’s actions against ordinary Iranians by reintroducing sanctions and withdrawing the US from the nuclear deal.
This is the only hand the Islamic Republic has to play, but it is hard to say whether it can be a winner against the cards held by its opponents, given that even their remaining partners in the nuclear deal are making allegations against them about human-rights violations and regional meddling, including the ongoing war in Syria.
A report by the US State Department published last week emphasized Iran’s role in supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region.
Reinforcing this allegation, on Thursday Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, said the one thing many Iranians did not want publicized ahead of their appearance at the United Nations. He said that Israeli strikes in Syria had failed to thwart weapons deliveries, and warned that Israel “will face a destiny and reality it didn’t expect” should Hezbollah bases in Lebanon be threatened. He said the group now possesses “highly accurate” missiles, despite Israeli attempts to prevent this.
This was an admission that what the US, the EU and Iran’s neighbors in the region have been complaining about is true, that Iran’s missile program is not for defense or deterrence, it is for threatening neighbors and the region in an attempt to expand Tehran’s influence.
In my opinion, Trump’s tweet about the change to the agenda for the Security Council session to again focus on Iran might have something to do with Nasrallah’s high-profile threats against Israel. The missiles he was talking about were almost certainly supplied by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The US is increasing its pressure on Iran ahead of the general debate in an attempt to force Tehran to agree to fresh talks, but not only about its nuclear program. As Bryan Hooks, a senior adviser to the US secretary of state, said: “The ballistic missiles and the nuclear program should be addressed in any new agreement with Tehran.”
Not only the United States, but also Iran’s EU partners such as France and the UK, have recently been taking a stronger stance in their dealings with the Islamic Republic.
The UK authorities have urged British-Iranians to avoid traveling to Iran, warning that if they face any difficulties or arrest, consular services cannot be provided to help as the Iranian authorities will not permit it. This is a direct response to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual citizen who was arrested two years ago, charged with espionage and jailed for five years.
They are many other cases of dual citizens from the UK, the US and other countries who have been arrested on espionage charges. Many observers believe that they are being held by the regime as hostages to use against the West.
France, meanwhile, has refused to appoint a new ambassador to Tehran until there is greater cooperation over the terror plot against an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June that allegedly involved an Iranian diplomat.
- Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and the author of ‘Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth’ (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: @CameliaFard