Anti-US rhetoric added at last minute to Rouhani’s UN speech

Two passages bashing America were hurriedly inserted into Iranian president’s text

Hassan Rouhani finishes speaking during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (AP/Seth Wenig)
Hassan Rouhani finishes speaking during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (AP/Seth Wenig)

Two passages of rhetoric hostile to the United States were added at the last minute to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.

The extra sentences were included in Rouhani’s address only after the formal text had been submitted to the UN. They therefore are not contained in the text of the speech as it appears on the UN’s website; the UN posted the text, as is its custom, shortly after the speaker had completed his address.

The extra passages appear to have been hurriedly written: In a speech whose English translation is generally of a high, polished standard, both of the additional passages interrupt the flow of the speech and feature grammatical errors.

The additional passages also jar in tone with the thrust of much of the speech, in which Rouhani repeatedly reaches out to the international community, proclaims the start of a “new era” and a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world, and calls for greater international cooperation. By contrast, the added passages appear to reflect a harder-line rhetorical style, more typical of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials who repeatedly declaim against warmed relations with the United States.

The first of the extra passages followed a section in which Rouhani hailed the nuclear deal, attacked sanctions on Iran as illegal, and asserted Iran’s good faith in the negotiations. He or his speechwriters then added in the following jarring semi-sentence: “For which ultimately the United States of America was prompted and forced to set aside pressure and sanctions and choose the table of negotiations and discussions.”

The second of the last-minute additions came very near the end of the speech, after a section in which Rouhani had just castigated the US for its “unwarranted support for the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime against the oppressed nation of Palestine.” The following curious passage was then hurriedly introduced: “It is urgent for the United States government instead of explaining the truth of the region and throwing about baseless accusations and pursuing other dangerous policies in defense of its regional allies who only cultivate the seeds of division and extremism. This must be brought to an end and its actions must be made compatible with the realities of the region.”

President Barack Obama speaks to the UN General Assembly, September 28, 2015 (UN screenshot)
President Barack Obama speaks to the UN General Assembly, September 28, 2015 (UN screenshot)

Rouhani spoke at the UN shortly after President Barack Obama. In his speech, the US president hailed the July nuclear deal with Iran, but also lambasted the regime in Tehran for continuing “to deploy violent proxies to advance its interests. These efforts may appear to give Iran leverage in disputes with neighbors, but they fuel sectarian conflict that endangers the entire region, and isolates Iran from the promise of trade and commerce.” Added Obama, “The Iranian people have a proud history and are filled with extraordinary potential. But chanting ‘Death to America’ does not create jobs, or make Iran more secure. If Iran chooses a different path, it would be better for the security of the region, good for the Iranian people, and good for the world.”

Iran expert Dr. Soli Sahavar noted that “Rouhani is constantly walking on eggshells between Iranian conservatives and moderates,” and speculated that “one of his consultants may have added those sections for perceived balance.” Sahavar, who heads Haifa University’s Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, noted that material far more hostile to the US features frequently in the Iranian press at present, “with the US depicted as weak, and Iran as bold and victorious.”

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