Rouhani promises nuclear ‘transparency’ in UN address, but insists on right to enrich uranium

Saying he is sure Iran and US can resolve their differences, new president refers to the Torah and Psalms, talks of legitimate rights of ‘all nations,’ slams treatment of Palestinians

Iran's President Hasan Rouhani speaks to the UN General Assembly, September 24 (photo credit: UN screenshot)
Iran's President Hasan Rouhani speaks to the UN General Assembly, September 24 (photo credit: UN screenshot)

Hours after Iran declined an American offer for a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly currently underway in New York, Rouhani made his debut address to the Assembly Tuesday. He offered “transparency” on Iran’s nuclear program, but reserved the right to retain that “peaceful” program, including the right to enrich uranium.

Hasan Rouhani is about to make his debut speech to the UN General Assembly.

Earlier today, in his speech, President Obama welcomed new moderate indications from Iran and offered to “test” the diplomatic route to solving the nuclear crisis.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, warned the world not to be “fooled” by what he called Tehran’s “half-measures” — it was all a “smokescreen” for Iran’s ongoing nuclear weapons drive, he said.

Rouhani: There is hope in a preference for dialogue over conflict

Rouhani speaks first of the worldwide fear of war and hostile relations, fear of institutionalization of violence and extremism.

But there is hope too — “a preference for dialogue over conflict.”

Iran’s recent election underlines the will for peace by the brave Iranian people, he argues.

Iran’s people and government hope for peaceful resolutions to conflicts.

He says the current period of transition has both dangers and opportunities.

His criticism of Israel is thinly veiled. “The age of the zero-sum game is over, even though a few actors still intend on relying on archaic and deeply ineffective means to preserve their domination. Militarism and the resort to violence and military means for subjugating others are failed examples of the perpetuation of old ways in new circumstances.”

He complains, too, of “coercive economic policies,” a reference to international sanctions imposed on Iran.

Rouhani: Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region

There is no guarantee that the current era of quiet among the big powers will remain, Rouhani says.

He warns of the “catastrophic impact” of violence and extremism, and cautions against efforts at “regime change from the outside.”

He speaks of Islamophobia representing “serious threats” against world peace.

He calls the Iranian threat “imaginary…employed as an excuse to justify a long catalogue of crimes and catastrophic practices over the last three decades. Those who warn against the so-called threat from Iran are themselves the threat. Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region.”

Rouhani slams ‘occupation of Palestine’

The Iranian president turns to the Palestinian issue, without mentioning Israel by name.

He cites the “unacceptable repression of the Palestinian people.” There is “structural violence” against the Palestinian people, he says.

“Palestine is under occupation. Palestinians are denied the right of return, kept from returning to their homes and homeland.” There is “institutionalized aggression against the innocent Palestinian people.”

Belligerent sanctions causing human suffering, says Rouhani

On Syria, he warns about the arming of terrorists. Terrorism “is a violent force that knows no country or national borders.”

He castigates the use of drones, even in the name of confronting terrorism.

And he slams the “criminal assassination” of Iranian nuclear scientists, who he says have committed no crime. “Have the perpetrators been condemned?” he asks.

He now attacks sanctions that violate human rights — “above all the right to life.”

Sanctions cause “belligerence, war-mongering and human suffering.”

“It is the common people who are victimized by these sanctions,” he insists.

Violence and extremism have damaged international morality. “Intolerance is the predicament of our time.” We need to promote tolerance, he says.

Human society should be elevated from “mere tolerance” to collaboration. People worldwide “hope for a change in the status quo.”

Iran “believes that all challenges can be managed successfully” through moderation. People worldwide want to confront violence and extremism, he says.

Rouhani speaks of ensuring ‘legitimate rights of all countries’

Iran will “act responsibly” with regard to regional security, he promises. “There are no violent solutions to world crises.”

He speaks of ensuring “the legitimate rights of all countries in the world, including in the region,” through moderation.

Iran and other actors should pursue two common objectives to solve the nuclear dossier:

1. “Iran’s nuclear program, and those of other countries, must pursue exclusively peaceful purposes. I declare here openly and unambiguously that this will always be Iran’s objective. There is no place for nuclear weapons or WMDs in Iran’s defense doctrine, and [such weapons] contradict our religious convictions.” All “reasonable concerns” will be assuaged by Iran, he promises.

2. “Acceptance of and respect for enrichment within iran is the only path forward in negotiations,” he warns. There is no chance to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. Its nuclear knowledge and technology are now “domesticated,” and it is “an illusion, extremely unrealistic” to suggest the peaceful program can be imperiled, he says.

“Iran insists on its international rights, and is prepared to engage immediately in time-bound and results-oriented talks to remove mutual uncertainties with mutual policies.”

Iran is ready for talks to build mutual confidence based on transparency, he adds. It “does not seek to increase tensions with the United States.”

Rouhani: We can manage our differences with the US

He says he listened carefully to Obama’s speech and believes “we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences.”

This would be based on mutual respect and the principles of international law.

He asks the UN to consider a project: The World Against Violence and Extremism. He invites all states and institutions to join the effort, instead of “ineffective coalitions for war.”

The Islamic Republic invites the world community to take a step forward toward “a world against violence and extremism,” and urges: “Open a new horizon in which peace will prevail over war, tolerance over violence, progress over blood letting, justice over discrimination, prosperity over poverty, and freedom over despotism.” Quoting an Iranian poet, he says: “Be relentless in striving for the cause of good.”

The future will be bright if the world rejects violence and extremism, he concludes. His hope, he says, “from the belief shared by all religions… the Koran… the Torah… ‘that My virtuous servants will inherit the Earth.'”

Besides Israel, no walk-outs during Rouhani’s debut speech

Brief and effective, Rouhani ends his speech.

Strikingly, he reasserted Iran’s right to continue enriching uranium.

But strikingly, too, he spoke of the need to assuage world suspicion regarding Iran’s nuclear program, promising “transparency.”

He also cleverly mentioned the Torah and Psalms in the final passage of his speech. There was no mention of Israel by name, and he called Palestine occupied, but he also spoke of the legitimacy of “all” countries.

Rouhani did nothing to curb Obama’s readiness to “test” diplomacy to resolve the nuclear face-off, but neither did he give ground on the key issues of nuclear concern.

This was largely as expected. Expected too, but effective nonetheless, was the different, more gracious tone from that of Rouhani’s predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His speech was more direct and easier to follow than his predecessor’s were as well.

CNN notes that unlike in previous years, there were no Western walk-outs during the speech (besides the Israeli delegation), and that the highest-level US diplomat for years was in the hall to hear the Iranian president.

read more: