Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday said Israel was the greatest threat to world peace, and responded to a fiery speech by US President Donald Trump by claiming the United States was plotting to overthrow Tehran’s regime.
“The innumerable crimes of Israel against the Palestinians would not have been possible without the political and military assistance” of the US, Rouhani charged in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
He accused Israel of “blatantly threatening others with nuclear annihilation” and said the Jewish state constitutes “the most daunting threat to regional and global peace.”
Trump had earlier in the day urged the international community to isolate Iran, accusing the Tehran regime of sowing “chaos, death and destruction,” ahead of the administration’s plans to reimpose harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic on November 5.
“We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” Trump said, citing Iran’s “threatening Israel with annihilation” and chants of “death to America.”
“We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues and we ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny,” he said.
Rouhani defended the 2015 nuclear deal that put curbs on his country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, and decried sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration as part of its pullout from the accord.
“Unlawful unilateral sanctions in themselves constitute a form of economic terrorism,” he said, adding that the US approach to Iran was “doomed to failure.”
“The government of the United States of America, at least the current administration, seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual,” he added.
Trump withdrew in May from the nuclear deal, which was forged under his predecessor, Barack Obama, in 2015. The administration scolded the deal for its sunset clauses that allow certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to expire, its failure to prevent Iranian ballistic missile testing, and the degree of access it provides for inspectors into Iran’s military sites.
Trump’s pullout from the deal was met with intense criticism from world leaders, especially those of the other countries — Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia — that brokered the accord.
In his speech, Trump also championed the decision to move his country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, saying the US was “committed to a future of peace and stability in the region, including peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. That aim is advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts.”
Rouhani called Trump’s decision to move the US diplomatic mission “abhorrent,” and said recent Knesset legislation defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people was “racist” and a “manifestation of apartheid.”
Rouhani also rejected Trump’s offer to hold bilateral talks with Tehran, saying, “On what basis and criteria can we enter into an agreement with an administration misbehaving like this?”
He went on to charge that the US was plotting regime change in Iran.
“It is ironic that the US government doesn’t even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks,” he said.
Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon called Rouhani’s speech “detached from reality,” saying that while he was “trying to preach about morality to Israel,” Iran’s actions were spreading “terror around the world in a long and bloody path across continents.
“Had it not been for Tehran’s financial support, Hamas could not have dug terror tunnels into Israel and Hezbollah would not have built huge stockpiles of weapons,” he said.
Eric Cortellessa and agencies contributed to this report.