World must send Iran a strong message at UN General Assembly
Iran’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi is due to speak at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly next week in spite of the US sanctions against him, which were imposed in 2019.
The Iranian regime will most likely attempt to use the platform to advance false narratives, such as blaming other countries for conflicts in the region, depicting itself as the frontrunner in the fight against terrorism in the region, demonizing its rivals, and claiming that its nuclear program is solely designed for peaceful purposes. Raisi will also likely demand that all sanctions against the Islamic Republic be lifted.
There is a lot of controversy concerning the Iranian president’s attendance in New York, which will be his first visit to the UN as president. The Iranian hard-liner was reportedly involved in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and there have been calls by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International to investigate alleged crimes committed while he was a member of the so-called death committee. That is among the reasons why eight US senators, including Sens. Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Joni Ernst and Ted Cruz, have urged US President Joe Biden to deny Raisi entry to the country. “Raisi’s involvement in mass murder and the Iranian regime’s campaign to assassinate US officials on American soil make allowing Raisi and his henchmen to enter our country an inexcusable threat to national security,” a letter signed by the senators stated.
The tone that the US sets at the UNGA is critical to the Iranian leaders’ political calculations. Although the US has taken a softer position toward the Tehran government due to the prospects of a new nuclear deal, the White House ought to focus on its destabilizing behavior in the region and the need for the Islamic Republic to alter its regional policies.
The US should send a message to the Iranian regime that a nuclear deal does not give it the green light to act as it wishes in the region, particularly in Arab nations such as Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The international community can use the UNGA platform to draw attention to the devastating effects Tehran’s continuing support for militia and terror groups has on the Middle East.
It can be argued that the theocratic establishment is one of the core reasons for the ongoing conflict in Yemen, due to the weapons assistance it provides to the Houthis. Security forces in Yemen last month busted a cell affiliated with the Houthi militia group for smuggling weapons from Iran. This is yet another violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions by the Iranian regime when it comes to the Yemen conflict.
The US ought to focus on the regime’s destabilizing behavior in the region and the need for it to alter its policies.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Yemeni Information Minister Moammar Al-Iryani stated that confessions made by members of the cell “confirm that Tehran continues to supply the (Houthi) militia with weapons.” They also confirmed the Iranian regime’s role in “undermining the truce’s efforts and (show) that Iran uses the Houthi militia to kill Yemenis, destabilize Yemen and spread chaos and terrorism in the region.”
The Iranian leaders have also been trying to pressure world powers into putting an end to the current investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Tehran’s clandestine nuclear activities, which include possible military dimensions. At the UNGA, the US and the international community should make it clear that such a demand will not be accepted. Instead, the Iranian regime should be urged to cooperate with the IAEA’s probe.
To be more specific, the Iranian leaders must come clean about their nuclear activities and respond to the alarming questions raised by the UN’s nuclear watchdog. Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, last month said: “So far, Iran has not given us the technically credible explanations we need to explain the origin of many traces of uranium, the presence of equipment at places. This idea that politically we are going to stop doing our job is unacceptable for us.” Grossi also emphasized to the IAEA board that, without the Iranian government’s cooperation, the “agency cannot confirm the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.”
In other words, the US should not just concentrate on the Iranian regime’s nuclear program at the UNGA — it also ought to address Tehran’s destabilizing behavior in the region and its support for terror and militia groups.
The international community, particularly the US and European powers, has the opportunity to send a strong message to the Iranian regime at the UNGA that Tehran’s nuclear threat and clandestine activities, along with its destabilizing regional behavior and support for terrorism, will not be tolerated. Otherwise, if the Iranian leaders believe they can act with impunity, they will be more emboldened and empowered to pursue their military adventurism.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh