The UN General Assembly’s morning session Wednesday includes speeches by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, a day after US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pilloried Tehran and Trump neglected to mention the Palestinians in his debut speech on the world stage. (Wednesday’s order of speakers is here.)
Later Wednesday, after Rouhani’s speech, the parties to the 2015 nuclear deal are set to meet, providing a venue for a tense first encounter between Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It will be the first joint meeting of foreign ministers from the seven signatory countries since the Trump administration took office in January.
The stakes are high. Trump is due to report to the US Congress by October 15 on whether he believes Iran is upholding its side of the accord, under which it accepted limits on its nuclear program.
If Congress decides to reimpose economic sanctions — in the teeth of opposition from fellow deal signatories Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — the deal would likely collapse. US allies in Europe, along with many of Trump’s critics in Washington, fear this could trigger a new Middle East arms race even as the world faces an aggressive nuclear-armed Pyongyang.
Nevertheless, the tough-talking US leader did not hold back in his own General Assembly address on Tuesday, sending his clearest signal yet that he intends to torpedo the agreement.
“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” he declared, reprising a main theme of his campaign for office.
“Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.
“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.”
Several of Trump’s advisors, including Tillerson and UN ambassador Nikki Haley, have argued that Iran’s ballistic missile tests and support for terror groups breaches the “spirit” of the deal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also harshly condemned the Iran nuclear deal in a speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, warning that the accord will pave the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons if it is not scrapped or altered.
“Change it or cancel it,” he said. “Fix it or nix it.”
“Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability,” he added. “Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation. But above all, fixing the deal means getting rid of the sunset clause.”
Rouhani on Tuesday said the United States will lose international support if it pulls out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Everyone will clearly see that Iran has lived up to its agreements and that the United States is therefore a country that cannot be trusted,” Rouhani told NBC TV.
Abbas, meanwhile, faces world leaders with the Palestinian issue sidelined by pressing global crises such as North Korea’s nuclear capability and Mynamar’s persecution of the minority Rohingya.
Other highlights of Wednesday’s second day of leader speeches at the UN assembly will include Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Britain’s Theresa May.