(Persia Digest) – Professor Shireen Hunter at Georgetown University in Washington DC says: “If President Rouhani brings a message of reconciliation, his presence at the UNSC would be very useful. However, if he engages in recrimination and attacks on America and Israel, it would be best that some other official represented Iran at the UNSC discussions.”
President Trump intends to chair the UN Security Council meeting on Iran at the end of September. The meeting will take place on the sidelines of the 73rd UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Some reports indicate that Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, will be joining him. US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has said that the Iranian President can take part at the meeting which will run concurrently with the General Assemble meeting. Be that as it may, it has been speculated that a presence by Rouhani will grant Trump’s claims legitimacy. Others believe that the Iranian President must use this opportunity to announce his country’s stance.
Persia Digest has conducted an interview with Shireen Hunter who is a Research Professor at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington DC, and a former Academic Fellow at Carnegie Corporation.
You can read the interview here:
What should the Iranian President do? Should he take part in the said meeting headed by Trump or make do with a speech at the General Assembly?
If Iran's president uses this opportunity to start a dialogue with the United States on the whole range of issues that divide the two states, then it would be very useful if he participated at the Security Council meeting during Donald Trump's speech. He could refute America's accusations against Iran, but at the same offer an olive branch in the form of proposing further talk to iron out differences. However, if he decides to engage in a tit for tat polemics with the US president, then it would be better that he does not participate at the UNSC discussion. An acrimonious exchange between their respective presidents would only exacerbate already tense relations between Iran and America.
Nikki Haley has said discussions will not be limited to the JCPOA. Trump wants to investigate Iran’s violations of international law and its destabilizing actions in the region. In this case, will the simultaneous attendance of the Iranian and American presidents at the meeting fulfill Trump’s call for negotiations with Iran?
The mere attendance of President Hassan Rouhani at the UNSC meeting during Trump's intervention does not amount to bilateral negotiations. However, it could prepare the ground for direct talks between Iran and America at some future time. The main problem is that, thus far, both Iran and America have not openly said what the real problem in their relations is. The main hurdle in US-Iran relations are the following: Iran's insistence on anti-imperial struggle (Istekbarsetizi) which essentially means efforts to eliminate and / or limit American presence in the Middle East. The second problem is Iran's insistence on Israel's illegitimacy and the dissolution of the Jewish state. Accusations that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism is because of its support for anti-Israel groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. American opposition to Iranian presence in places such as Syria and Iraq is also because of American and Israeli fears that Tehran could use its influence in such places to undermine Israel's security and US presence. At some point, Iran must face this difficult question namely that , without compromise on the Israel issue , its relations with America, and even Europe, would not be fully normalized and thus its reintegration in to the international economic and political systems would not be completed.
However, if the Iranian government changes its approach to Israel and abandons the anti-imperialist struggle, then issues such as regime change in Iran would also disappear and issues such as human rights would lose their importance as determinants of US-Iran relations.
Finally, if President Rouhani brings a message of reconciliation, his presence at the UNSC would be very useful. However, if he engages in recrimination and attacks on America and Israel, it would be best that some other official represented Iran at the UNSC discussions. US-Iran tensions are reaching a point that their continuation, especially for Iran, is becoming untenable. In such circumstances, only two options are available to the parties: De-escalation and eventual reconciliation, or violence and war with unpredictable results. In my view, Iran should take this opportunity to signal a fundamental shift in its foreign policy. The question is would Iran's domestic political dynamics and its factional infightings allow such bold actions.
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