Iranian President Hassan Rouhani concludes his address at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US, September 20, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The president of Iran responded to fighting words from US President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, warning the American administration that its effort to undermine its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers would only hurt US credibility on the world stage.
Hassan Rouhani characterized Trump's speech the day before– in which the US president referred to Iran's government as a murderous, rogue regime– as "ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric," "ridiculously baseless," and unfit to be heard at the august United Nations. And he said that Iran would respond forcefully if the US left the accord.
"Just imagine for a minute how the Middle East would look had the JCPOA not been concluded," Rouhani asked. "Imagine that along with civil wars, Takfiri terror, humanitarian nightmares, and complex sociopolitical crises in West Asia, that there was a manufactured nuclear crisis. How would we all fare?"
"I declare before you that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement," he continued, "but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party. It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by 'rogue' newcomers to the world of politics: the world will have lost a great opportunity."
Rouhani several times referred to the Israeli government as a "rogue Zionist regime," and claimed that the Jewish state "threatens regional and global security with its nuclear arsenal." It is "audacious," he said, for such a state to preach to the world on the need for nuclear non-proliferation.
"Throughout its history, Iran has been the bastion of tolerance for various religions and ethnicities," Rouhani said. "We are the same people who rescued the Jews from Babylonian servitude; opened our arms to welcome Armenian Christians in our midst, and created the 'Iranian cultural continent' with a unique mix of diverse religions and ethnicities."
"I represent the same Iran that has historically assisted the oppressed: centuries ago, we supported the rights of the Jewish people and today we insist on the restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people," he added.
One day before, in his first speech to the UN body, Trump lambasted Iran as a top global threat and characterized its nuclear agreement with world powers– formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action– as an "embarrassment" to the United States.
"The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy," Trump said, characterizing the Islamic Republic as an "economically depleted" nation whose main exports are "violence, bloodshed and chaos."
Iran's Rouhani defends nuclear deal in election debate (credit: REUTERS)
The nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration is "an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it, believe me," Trump continued. "We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program."
"It is time for the entire world to insist the Iranian government end its pursuit of death and destruction," he added.
In recent days, the president has repeatedly suggested he is prepared to alter US engagement in the nuclear accord– possibly by decertifying Iran's compliance to the deal under US law next month, a move which would allow the US to stay within the JCPOA whilst kicking off an internal congressional debate over its merits.
On Wednesday, he told reporters that he had already decided how to proceed.
"I have decided," he said, sat alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "I'll let you know what the decision is."
Trump met on Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss a path forward with Iran. Speaking with reporters after their meeting, Netanyahu said that the Americans are looking for ways to fix the agreement, and that his government offered them concrete proposals to consider.
In his own speech, Netanyahu praised the Trump administration's position and called on world powers to "fix or nix" the flawed accord.