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A Warm Welcome Expected at U.N. for Hassan Rouhani of Iran

Middle East
By THOMAS ERDBRINK
September 27, 2015

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Monday. Thomas Erdbrink, the Tehran bureau chief for The New York Times, looks at what message Mr. Rouhani has for international leaders and how it might be received.

What’s different from the last time President Rouhani spoke to the General Assembly?

Mr. Rouhani, Iran’s leader since 2013, now has something to show for his presidency at the assembly: He concluded a nuclear deal with six world powers, including Iran’s nemesis, the United States. And, for the first time in years, Iran can look forward to the lifting of sanctions when the deal is put in effect.

Initially, the ban on financial transactions and oil sales will be eased. After that, more steps will be taken as Iran meets certain benchmarks, including limits on elements of its nuclear program and increased transparency of that program.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a news conference in Tehran last month.

How will Mr. Rouhani be received by his fellow world leaders?

Even more warmly than in previous years. Mr. Rouhani has long carried the promise of change, especially for countries — mainly in Europe — where businesses are eager to enter Iran.

What can we expect him to say?

Mr. Rouhani will likely repeat earlier statements that he has made at the General Assembly: The world must unite to fight terrorism, including the forces trying to defeat President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Iran’s ally. Mr. Rouhani will laud the nuclear deal, and call for all partners (read: the United States) to fulfill the agreement and lift all sanctions.

What won’t Mr. Rouhani say, even if he’s thinking it?

In Iran, Mr. Rouhani, a cleric since he was 13 years old, is called the “Sheikh of Diplomacy.” His every word is measured and planned.

Is there anything he might say that would be surprising?

It would be surprising if there was a meeting or even a handshake between Mr. Rouhani and President Obama. In 2013, after Mr. Rouhani’s first appearance at the United Nations General Assembly, the two presidents spoke by phone. Upon his return to Tehran, Mr. Rouhani was pelted with eggs and a shoe (a great insult in Islam).

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has recently spoken out against any form of rapprochement with the United States. So any symbolic gesture between Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani would be a surprise.

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(via NY Times)