Will Racke, DCNF
- When President Donald Trump leads his first U.N. Security Council meeting this week, his administration’s Iran policy will be the center of world attention.
- The session is the first time the leaders of the countries that signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will be in one place since Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in May.
- Trump’s address at the Security Council is part of an ongoing campaign to pressure allies into backing the administration’s plan to further isolate Tehran with crippling economic sanctions.
When President Donald Trump chairs his first United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday, the broad theme of his address will ostensibly be the worldwide prevention of nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction.
But Iran, which Trump’s national security team considers to be a top geopolitical threat, is almost certain to receive the lion’s share of the president’s attention.
“Talking about Iran, talking about their proxies and the other things they are doing to destabilize the Middle East will certainly be a topic,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Thursday in a preview of the administration’s approach in New York.
Wednesday’s gathering will be “the most watched Security Council meeting ever,” she predicted.
Trump’s appearance at this week’s U.N. General Assembly marks the first time the leaders of the countries that signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will be gathered in the same place since he pulled the U.S. out of the pact in May. The move opened a wide rift between Washington and its European allies, which have tried to preserve the deal despite increasing pressure from U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Already at odds with Europe over the Iran deal pullout, Trump will try to convince skeptical world leaders to back the administration’s plan to further isolate Tehran with harsh penalties on its critical energy and financial sectors. He will also denounce Iranian foreign policy in the Middle East, including its interference in Iraq’s internal politics and its support for militant proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
Among the Security Council’s other permanent members — Britain, France, Russia and China — there is very little support for Trump’s hawkish approach to the Islamic Republic. All four countries, plus Germany, are party to the nuclear accord, and they have spent the summer working on ways to maintain economic ties with Tehran in the face of looming U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The stark difference between Washington’s position on Iran and that of rest of the Security Council was already apparent as General Assembly proceedings got underway on Monday. Diplomats from the nuclear deal countries were planning to meet with Iranian representatives to convince Tehran to stay in the deal after U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry take effect in November. Those countries are expected to issue a joint statement in support of the deal after the Security Council meeting, the Wall Street Journal reported.
For its part, Iran is also mounting an influence campaign ahead of the Security Council session. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani laid the groundwork with an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Friday, painting his government as the responsible party in contrast to a reckless Trump administration out of step with the international consensus on the nuclear deal.
“The United States expected a hasty Iranian withdrawal so that it could easily forge an international alliance against Iran and automatically revive previous sanctions,” Rouhani wrote. “Our action, instead, thwarted such a move. The talks with the remaining JCPOA participants, and their reiteration of compliance with the accord, placed the United States in a lonely position.”
Rouhani is likely to repeat that message in his meetings with diplomats and media figures in New York, but his public appeals have done little to minimize the effects of Washington’s pressure campaign. Dozens of major European firms have already suspended or withdrawn their operations in Iran, while Iranian oil exports have plummeted in the face of looming U.S. sanctions.
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