Iranian President Hassan Rouhani got right down to business in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, accusing President Trump, without mentioning him by name, of trying to seek power through “the fomenting of extremist nationalism and racism, and through xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition, as well as through the trampling of global rules and undermining international institutions.”
As evidence of these tendencies, Rouhani pointed to Wednesday’s scheduled Security Council meeting on nonproliferation, which will be chaired by Trump, who said the meeting will focus on Iran. (Trump did call Rouhani a “lovely man” in a tweet earlier on Tuesday, but judging by recent exchanges, it doesn’t seem like a meeting between the two is coming any time soon.)
Rouhani’s speech followed one by Trump this morning that focused heavily on Iran and preceded a separate Iran-focused speech Tuesday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a conference in New York. Except for a few shots at Israel and the Gulf States, Rouhani’s speech was heavily targeted toward the Great Satan. Rouhani called U.S. sanctions “a form of economic terrorism” and inferred that Trump may “dislike the JCPOA because it is the legacy of your domestic political rivals.” He claimed that the “U.S. government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks!”
Rouhani also repeated the Iranian government’s accusations that Western countries were partly responsible for last weekend’s attack on an Iranian military parade in the city of Ahvaz. “Why can the leaders of these terrorist operations—including the organization that has publicly claimed responsibility for Saturday’s crime—live and operate freely in Western countries, and even openly solicit funds?” (Leaders of some of Iran’s ethnic separatist movements are based in European countries.)
Iran is a theocratic regime currently backing armed sectarian groups in conflicts throughout the Middle East. So under normal circumstances, it should provoke some eye-rolling when its president claims without irony that “the United States’ understanding of international relations is authoritarian,” that “we have warned against any foreign intervention in the internal affairs of” Syria, and that “those seeking dominance and hegemony are enemies of peace and the perpetrators of war.”
But given international frustration over Trump’s attitude toward the Iran deal, Rouhani likely got a more sympathetic reception, even from traditional U.S. allies, than the U.S. president did.