NEW YORK, NEW YORK — President Donald Trump led the U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, focusing much of his attention on Iran, as he did during the United Nations General Assembly’s General Debate the previous day.
If Trump was looking for friends in the room on that front, he wasn’t going to find any; there was not a single member state that joined the president in condemning the nuclear deal with Iran. In a separate press conference, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pointed to that isolation. “America is alone,” he told reporters.
In his opening remarks, Trump accused Iran of fueling “chaos in the Middle East and far beyond” with their ballistic missiles — one of the reasons the Trump administration has cited for violating the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. According to regular inspections by the U.N.’s watchdog agency, however, Iran has been found to be in compliance with the terms of the deal.
In pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May, the Trump administration also re-imposed sanctions on Iran because, said Trump during Wednesday’s meeting, the deal was giving Iran “a path towards a bomb.”
He also promised additional sanctions, even after the one targeting Iran’s oil exports kick in on November 5, which is contrary to the wishes of France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and Germany, who are all parties to the JOCPA.
It is worth noting that that the U.S. sells a massive amount of weapons to countries in the region — such as Iran’s regional challengers Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates — and the U.S. provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, which has nuclear weapons and is not a signatory to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Trump’s comments on Iran did not go unchallenged at the council.
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales Ayma, generally known as Evo Morales, pulled no punches, referencing the 1953 U.S.-orchestrated coup in Iran which saw the diplomatically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who nationalized Iran’s oil supply, jailed, and the king once against installed in power.
Condemning U.S. actions, Morales told the council that Iran is “once again the victim of a U.S. siege,” and that the Trump administration is “hiding behind pretext” to continue to interfere with Iran’s affairs.
He went on to say the United States was in “no way interested” in supporting democracy, and “could not care less about human rights and justice.”
Other countries — Kuwait, Ethiopia, Netherlands, and others — expressed support for the deal, even as some shared their concern over Iran’s activities in the region.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron pointed out that while the JCOPA is “imperfect,” it is “a decisive step” in the right direction. British Prime Minister Theresa May also voiced support for the deal. While she criticized Iran supplying Yemen’s Houthi rebels with ballistic missiles, May said the JCPOA was the “best means in prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”
Rouhani’s victory lap
By virtue of not being a member of the Security Council, Iran is locked out of the room where its actions are being judged. All told, Iran could not have asked for a better outcome from the meeting it could not attend.
Across the street from the United Nations, in a hotel ballroom, President Hassan Rouhani invited the press to hear what neither he nor his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had the opportunity to say before the Security Council.
Here, seated alone behind a table with a flower arrangement in front of him and his country’s flag behind him, Rouhani spoke like a man vindicated by what had just unfolded.
“America is alone. It is alone in the Security Council, where everyone supports the [JCPOA] agreement,” he said.
“America has made a mistake. It will either come back from this mistake, or it will stick with it. But sooner or later, America will come back. It can’t continue like this,” said Rouhani.
“What America is doing now is not in its interest,” Rouhani added. He took questions from reporters on a number of issues, including Iran’s role in Syria and Iraq. The focus of the press conference, though, was the nuclear deal.
Rouhani said Iran would stay in the JPCOA as long as it served his country’s national interest, and seemed unfazed by Trump’s threats of new sanctions.
“Let me shed some light on this point for you: There are no sanctions that America can later pursue. It has already done it all… so there will be nothing new,” said Rouhani.