US vs Iran at the UN General Assembly

US vs Iran at the UN General Assembly
At the 73rd Annual UN General Assembly Debate both the US President, Donald Trump and the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani exchanged threats and taunts. The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all Member States...

At the 73rd Annual UN General Assembly Debate both the US President, Donald Trump and the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani exchanged threats and taunts.

Background

The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all Member States have equal representation: one nation, one vote. All 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented in this unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc.

The annual General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly is the occasion for world leaders to gather at UN Headquarters to discuss global issues. The general debate is held at the beginning of each session of the General Assembly, usually in September in accordance with the Rules of Procedure. Often the Member States are represented by their Heads of State or Government during the general debate. However, not all member states participate in every session. The general debate provides an opportunity for member states to raise any topic and statements often reflect issues of importance to the member state.

95 heads of state, 4 vice presidents, 42 heads of governments, 3 deputy prime ministers and 48 ministers will attend the UNGA high-level week. Leaders meet with the aim of addressing the situation in Syria, Yemen and cover the full spectrum of international issues, including sustainable development, climate change, peace and security, human rights, public health concerns and gender equality.

Read more of our extensive analysis of the UNGA debate here

Analysis

US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart, President Hassan Rouhani exchanged threats and scoffs at the 73rd United Nations Annual General Assembly Debate. President Trump vowed to impose more sanctions on Tehran and President Rouhani suggested that his American counterpart suffers from “weakness of intellect”.

This was President Trump’s second annual speech at the UN General Assembly. In his speech, he praised Israel and Saudi Arabia and lauded his new friendship with the North Korean leader.  However, he attacked Iran, Venezuela and the International Criminal Court.

President Trump used the platform to criticize and attack Iran’s “corrupt dictatorship”. He said that “Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction.” To the gathering, he said that “They do not respect their neighbors or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.” Donald Trump’s address centred around the ‘America First’ policy wherein he said: “We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy”. He added that “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was defiant and direct, as he expressed that, “What Iran says is clear: no war, no sanctions, no threats, no bullying; just acting according to the law and the fulfillment of obligations.” He also accused the Trump administration of trying to undo all international institutions and slammed it for "illegally" withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, while calling on it to return to talks. According to him, Washington's behaviour in international relations is authoritarian.

The president was also confident as he remarked that the Iranian people have demonstrated their resilience over the past 40 years, and they can overcome this “difficult phase”. He also said that considering Iran’s multi-millennial history, the country has never broken in the “face of a storm of events.” Rouhani iterated that, "The UN is not a part of the United States administration." At the end of his speech, the Iranian president said that “The world will not have a better friend than Iran if peace is what you seek.”

Counterpoint

The annual General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly is a gathering of world leaders who express their country-specific concerns and also discuss global issues. Though both Presidents Trump and Rouhani spoke about the Middle East and Yemen, as influential leaders they failed to address other global matters.

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, in his speech began by stating that, “Our world is suffering from a bad case of trust deficit disorder.”

Assessment

Our assessment is that the comments made by the two presidents were expected and much anticipated. We believe that though their speeches were measured, specifically President Trump’s as compared to his last year’s speech, they were strong and clear. We feel that the presidents used this as a platform to articulate their position to the world gathering.

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