Experts expect the U.S. president to use the occasion to mobilize international support for renewed economic sanctions
United States President Donald Trump will later this month chair a high-level United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, in a bid to tighten the diplomatic screws on Iran. The American leader is expected to use the session to focus the spotlight on Tehran’s regional expansionism through its proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; its ballistic missile program; and its global arm sales—all of which, according to the Trump administration, violate existing UNSC resolutions.
“We want to make sure that [the Iranians] understand the world is watching [and] that is the biggest reason for this meeting,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley explained, leading analysts to posit that the primary American goal is to continue ratcheting up pressure on the mullahs.
In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the U.S. president of hypocrisy, tweeting, “There’s only one UNSC resolution on Iran. @realDonaldTrump is violating it & bullying others to do same. Now he plans to abuse [the rotating] presidency of [the Security Council which Washington holds in September] to divert a session—item devoted to Palestine for 70 yrs—to blame Iran for horrors US & clients have unleashed across M.E. #chutzpah.”
Zarif was referring to the unanimous adoption in July 2015 of UNSC resolution 2231, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal—and President Trump’s subsequent unilateral withdrawal from the pact in May.
Washington has to date failed to condemn Iran in the Security Council due to the veto power of the latter’s backers Russia and China. This past February, for example, Moscow torpedoed a U.S. bid to denounce Tehran for shipping weaponry to Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“[President Trump] is looking to mobilize the support of the international community, especially the signatories of the Iran nuclear deal,” with regards to economic sanctions, Dr. Raz Zimmt, a Senior Research Fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, asserted to The Media Line.
“[The Iranians] consider Trump’s appearance as a provocation and they expect him to use this opportunity to attack Iran,” he elaborated. “The main question is whether Trump wants to use this opportunity to arrange a meeting with [Iranian] President Hassan Rouhani, assuming he will be attending. We still don’t know because Zarif might be sent instead. My assessment is that Tehran will [anyways] never agree to that meeting.
“All we will see is continued anti-Iranian rhetoric so I don’t think [Trump’s speech] will change anything in particular,” Dr. Zimmt predicted. “Each side is just going to use this opportunity to express their stance.”
Dr. Eldad Pardo, an Iran expert at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, stressed to The Media Line that reining in Tehran is a “major foreign policy issue for the U.S.” and that the UNSC meeting would be geared towards getting the Islamic Republic back to the negotiating table.
“Trump wants to change Iran’s behavior by exerting a lot of pressure on it,” he explained. “Most of all, the U.S. would like to see Iran give up its nuclear ambitions” and destabilizing activities in the region.
“In order to pressure Iran, you need to rebuild the crippling sanctions and for this you need an international coalition,” Dr. Zimmt noted, arguing that other nations would likely abide by Washington’s demands in order to maintain crucial diplomatic and trade ties.
A second batch of U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector will take effect in November, with a report this week by Oxford Economics suggesting that the new penalties will “cripple the [Iranian] economy” which could to contract by as much as 4 percent next year.
President Trump on Wednesday contended that Iran is in “total turmoil” and that the Iranian regime is now “just worrying about [its] own survival.”
The Security Council session is slated to take place on September 26 during the annual opening of UN General Assembly in New York.
(Charles Bybelezer contributed to this report.)