A day after Donald Trump stood before the UN General Assembly and slandered Iran in the most abrasive terms imaginable, Hassan Rouhani got his chance to address the body.
Suffice to say he has a different take on the current standoff than his counterpart in Washington.
During a speech which started just after 11 AM in New York, the Iranian president accused the US of “abusing the international banking system” and violating UN agreements by unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear accord. “Our response to any negotiation under sanctions is negative”, he said, adding that Trump’s sanctions regime amounts to “merciless economic terrorism” and “international piracy”.
He proceeded to deliver an assessment of the prevailing tensions that, arguably, conforms more closely to reality than that pushed by the Trump administration.
Among other things, Rouhani said it doesn’t make sense for Iran to negotiate while punishing US sanctions remain in place, and recommended that the US return to the framework of the nuclear deal in order to set the stage for a constructive dialogue.
As far as regional security is concerned, he suggested that one way to foster peace would be for the US to just pack up and leave. “Iran is your neighbor, not the US”, Rouhani reminded the Gulf countries.
Commenting on Yemen, Rouhani said Iran would guarantee Saudi Arabia’s security once the kingdom ceases and desists from perpetuating a humanitarian crisis, and reiterated that Tehran will not “tolerate foreign aggressions or provocations” of any kind.
In an interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace which aired on Tuesday, Rouhani delivered a somewhat disingenuous, albeit superficially accurate, take on who it is that facilitates terrorism in the Mideast.
“Today, unfortunately, America is the supporter of terrorism in our region and wherever America has gone, terrorism has expanded in [its] wake”, he told Wallace. “Wherever we have gone, on the other side, we have defeated terrorism”.
Depending on the context, that’s true. The American invasion of Iraq certainly set the table for the emergence of ISIS, and there is no question that Hezbollah and Iran’s Shia militias were instrumental in defeating Sunni extremism in Syria and Iraq.
That said, Rouhani’s contention that Iran is somehow a model global citizen is, of course, laughable, and when pressed by Wallace, the exchange devolved into conspiracy theories which, even if true, don’t do anything to mitigate Iran’s culpability in perpetuating the circle of violence in the region.
Asked about the drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, Rouhani posed an amusing hypothetical.
“Let’s assume if it was from Iran, all of the monies received from the United States from these defensive systems, from these weapon systems, from these radar systems installed in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian peninsula, how come they were not able to prevent that missile from hitting the target”?, he wondered.
“Our region is on the edge of collapse”, he warned at the UN on Wednesday. “A single blunder can fuel a big fire”.