Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will attend the annual UN gathering in New York next week, likely to deliver a message of hope and optimism regarding Iran and the regional affairs. Transpiring at a delicate time in the Middle Eastern affairs, slowly but surely recuperating from the calamitous chaos of the past several years, Rouhani’s US visit also coincides with the relentless maneuvers by the US hawks both inside and outside the Trump administration to derail the Iran nuclear accord, which is in fact a crowning achievement of US’ ‘smart diplomacy’.
Intent on safeguarding the nuclear accord, which has brought a noticeable measure of relief from the Western sanctions bound to expand during Rouhani’s second term, Rouhani will use the UN podium to highlight the mutually-rewarding, i.e., win-win, significance of the nuclear accord and warn the US of negative ramifications of any unilateral Washington initiative to scrap the historic agreement — that has put to rest the international anxiety regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Already, Rouhani has warned that Iran will resume full-scale nuclear activities should the US decide to renege on the deal.
According to a top Iranian diplomat who spoke with the author on the condition of anonymity, Rouhani will project Iran’s image “as a significant contributor to anti-terrorism, peace and stability,” in light of the on-going Syria peace talks in Astana, sponsored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Today, the ISIS terrorists, who seized large chunks of both Iraqi and Syrian territories at the outset of Rouhani’s first term, are on the run, losing their last strongholds and, optimistically speaking, it is a matter of time before the bloody Syrian conflict is officially over.
No doubt, the questions of political reconciliation and future elections in Syria still loom large, but by now it is abundantly clear that thanks in large measure to the timely Russian intervention, the terrorist cause in Syria has faced a massive defeat, benefiting regional and global stability. Of course, still much depends on the role and input of terrorist-sponsoring states in the Persian Gulf, to revise their destructive policies, which have brought no tangible benefits to them after considerable waste of precious resources.
Fortunately, there are positive signs of slow improvements in the thorny Iran-Saudi relations, and the Saudi leaders must realize by now that their aggressive foreign policy approach, e.g., with respect to the neighboring Qatar, has clearly backfired and is in dire need of re-consideration and re-mapping in favor of cooperative security with both Iran and Iraq. Meanwhile, the deadly quagmire and humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen continues and the Saudi leaders attending the 72nd session of UN General Assembly will find very few sympathetic ears for their regional behavior.
Iran, on the other hand, is apt to boast of making major contributions to the cause of regional stability, such as by wielding its influence for the sake of a stable coalition government in Lebanon, thus averting chaos in that country. Having initiated an important General Assembly resolution against extremism at his first UN appearance as Iran’s new president four years ago, Rouhani is now keen on building on that positive legacy by making similar initiatives that would reinforce Iran’s stability role.
According to the Iranian diplomat mentioned above, Iran is seeking to promote “new regional-led initiatives” because it is convinced that “there are important vehicles for regional development.”
Previously, Tehran has proposed a regional forum on regional security in the Persian Gulf region, a noble idea hitherto shunned by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). But, harmonious Iran-GCC relations is essentially bad news for US, UK, and France, among others, whose military-industrial complexes thrive on huge arms sales to the region, triggered in part by the regional tensions. Hoping to simultaneously send a message of reconciliation to the GCC states, Rouhani’s aim in New York will be less to put the Saudis on the defensive and more to reassure them of Iran’s benign intentions.
With respect to the US, which is grappling with natural disasters and North Korean crisis, it is instructive that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has recently proposed to use Iran-style negotiations to deal with North Korea, in other words the US will go it alone if it opts out of the nuclear agreement. The time has certainly come to fully acknowledge the various direct and indirect benefits of the nuclear agreement, for all sides including US’s national security interests, and, hopefully, Rouhani’s US visit will serve to convince President Trump that his chronic Iranophobia collides with reality and should be replaced with a realistic policy that takes into consideration the tangible economic benefits of ‘doing business with Tehran’.