Iranian agenda in New York

Camelia Entekhabifard , Saturday 22 Sep 2018

Iran will dominate the agenda of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York

Hassan Rouhani
File Photo: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the UN General Assembly (Reuters)

Iran and the United States will perhaps draw the most attention at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly meetings that open in New York next week out of the 200 or so countries that plan to attend the debates.

The endless diplomatic struggle between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the US, regardless of who is the president of the US or who is president of Iran, remains a major challenge for world diplomacy.

This struggle has affected the lives of ordinary Iranians and the people of Iraq and Syria. Now the struggle is also affecting people in India, China and North Korea.

US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year, and now a new issue has alarmed the international community since Trump wants to implement a new round of sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, with the intention of implementing “zero exports” from Tehran.

Major importers of Iranian oil such as India, North Korea and China have decreased the level of their imports ahead of 4 November, the date on which Trump has decided to implement the oil sanctions.

Fears are rising of retaliation by the Islamic Republic, since it has a history of indirect violence against the US and its allies in the region.

Last week the US consulate in Basra and its embassy in Baghdad suffered rocket attacks by unknown people that the US identified as militias backed by the regime in Tehran.

Such attacks could be repeated against other foreign entities and diplomatic representatives, as Iranian hardliners have previously attacked UK and Saudi embassies and violated international norms.

Such threats to other nations because Iran cannot settle its issues with the United States have become a real concern for western countries.

The EU is not a major importer of Iranian oil, but it now seems to be reviewing the option of replacing Asian buyers such as India and North Korea to demonstrate its support for the Iran nuclear deal despite the US exit.

The Europeans still believe the nuclear deal is the best option to negotiate with Tehran on regional issues.

Not only are importers today subjected to Iran’s anger, but other exporters of oil may also not feel safe when Iran’s president and Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders have threatened to attack Saudi and UAE oil-tankers in the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait if the sanctions are implemented against Iran.

The UN General Assembly will have much to concentrate on, and there will likely be much lobbying inside the UN Secretariat building in New York for more private meetings between political leaders.

The opening day of the general debate is indirectly dedicated to Iran, and on 26 September Iran will be in the spot light at a special session of the Security Council chaired by Trump.

On the first day, the US president and the Iranian president are both scheduled to address the General Assembly, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Trump will speak in the morning, and Hassan Rouhani will reply later in the day.

Perhaps Iran’s major concern in sending a high-profile delegation to New York is to confront Trump’s attempt to emphasise the threats the Islamic Republic is bringing to global security by using its militia and proxy war to destabilise the Middle East region.

Trump is likely to gain support among the international community, and Iran will find it difficult to justify its actions.

Iran’s president may decide to use the session as a last chance to lobby against the oil sanctions. It will be interesting to watch Trump attack the Iranian regime at the Security Council while the world is listening.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 20 September 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Iranian agenda in New York

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