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In UN debut, Iran’s new president rails against US sanctions, denounces Israel

In video address to GA, Ebrahim Raisi heaps criticism on America while expressing backing for renewed nuclear talks; claims Israel behind ‘biggest state terrorism’

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks in recorded video message to the UN General Assembly, on September 21, 2021. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks in recorded video message to the UN General Assembly, on September 21, 2021. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Iran’s new president on Tuesday slammed United States sanctions imposed on his nation as a mechanism of war, packing a full slate of direct criticism of the US into his first United Nations address as head of state.

“Sanctions are the US’ new way of war with the nations of the world,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said. Although some 100 heads of state and government are attending the UN General Assembly leaders’ meeting in New York this week, Raisi delivered his remarks from Tehran remotely, as some have also chosen to do.

Raisi, who was sworn in last month after an election, is a conservative cleric and former judiciary chief who is close to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He used his time before world leaders to slam the US and espouse Iran’s Islamic political identity.

“What is seen in our region today proves that not only the hegemonist and the idea of hegemony, but also the project of imposing Westernized identity, have failed miserably,” Raisi said.

“Today, the US does not get to exit Iraq and Afghanistan but is expelled,” he added. The US military withdrew from Afghanistan and has largely withdrawn from Iraq.

“Today, the world doesn’t care about ‘America First’ or ‘America is Back,’ he said, referring to the slogans used by former US president Donald Trump and his successor, Joe Biden.

Iran’s President’s Ebrahim Raisi remotely addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021, at UN headquarters in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

Raisi has promised to engage with the US, but has also has struck a hardline stance, ruling out negotiations aimed at limiting Iranian missile development and support for regional militias — something that the Biden administration wants to address.

But Raisi voiced support for renewed nuclear negotations and called on the US to fulfill its promises to end sanctions under the 2015 nuclear accord.

“The Islamic Republic considers useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive sanctions,” Raisi said in his speech to the UN.

He repeated the clerical state’s stance that nuclear weapons are religiously prohibited, a position that has been met with skepticism, notably by Israel, which is believed to have carried out a sabotage campaign to delay Iran’s nuclear work.

Nuclear weapons “have no place in our defense doctrine and deterrence policy,” Raisi said.

Biden has made clear his desire to find a path to salvage the nuclear accord with Iran that was negotiated by the Obama administration. Still, indirect talks between the US and Iran have stalled, and Washington continues to maintain crippling sanctions on the country.

“The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon,” Biden said in his own UN speech, delivered in person earlier on Tuesday.

US President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021, at UN headquarters in New York City. (Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

In his remarks, Raisi also railed at Israel, whose destruction Iranian leaders regularly call for.

“The occupier Zionist regime is the organizer of the biggest state terrorism, whose agenda is to slaughter women and children,” he claimed.

He denounced the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Israel says is needed to prevent arms from reaching Palestinian terror groups in the coastal enclave, some of which receive support from Tehran.

“An all-out blockade has turned Gaza into the biggest prison in the world,” he said.

Raisi also said that the “deal of the century failed,” referring to the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal.

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