Iran’s President Rouhani: Let’s Isolate the US

By Patrick Goodenough | July 3, 2017 | 4:28 AM EDT

President Hassan Rouhani addresses a national judiciary forum in Tehran on July 2, 2017. (Photo: Iranian presidency)

( – For years the U.S. has worked to isolate the Iranian regime on the international stage, but Iranian President Hasan Rouhani sees an opportunity to reverse that situation, proposing on Sunday that Iran adopt policies to leave the United States isolated.

And he pointed as examples of such “isolation” already happening recent meetings of the U.N. Security Council and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international counterterrorist finance and anti-money laundering body.

“We should not allow the U.S. hand to expand and become powerful,” Iran’s “moderate” president told a meeting of judiciary officials in Tehran.

“Our foreign policy should be of such effect that would make powers condemn the U.S. and reproach it, should it choose to stand against us,” he added.

Rouhani said the U.S. is isolating itself because of plans to impose new sanctions on Iran.

(The U.S. Senate last week sent tough bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation to the House. Contrary to Tehran’s claims that the sanctions would breach the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, the sanctions are not nuclear-related, but target Iran’s ballistic missile programs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.)

At the Security Council in New York on Thursday, sharp U.S. criticism of Iran contrasted with expressions of support from other Western members for the JCPOA, which European representatives hailed as effective and historically significant.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley seemed to be a minority voice as she slammed the Security Council for not acting against Iran despite repeated and deliberate defiance of U.N. resolutions, including ballistic missile launches and support for terrorist groups.

“The continuance of Iran’s destructive, destabilizing behavior will prevent it from ever having a normal relationship with the United States and the rest of the world,” she said – even as envoys from other member-states, both the Europeans and traditionally Iran-friendly Russia and China, appeared largely disinclined to join in the criticism.

“Was there anyone [in the Security Council] to support the U.S.?” Rouhani asked on Sunday. “Neither Europe, China, Russia, nor other countries accepted what the U.S. said.”

He recalled there used to be a time when the U.S. could claim to have 14 votes of support in the 15-member council.

In another recent development cited by Rouhani, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at a June 23 meeting decided to extend a decision taken one year earlier to suspend restrictions against Iran, pending work on an anti-money laundering action plan.

The FATF did, however, decide to keep Iran on an economic blacklist alongside North Korea, since it remained “concerned with the terrorist financing risk emanating from Iran and the threat this poses to the international financial system.”

The FATF is a global body set up in 1989 with a mandate to counter money laundering, which was widened after 9/11 to include terrorist financing.

Although keeping Iran on its blacklist was a setback to Iran’s attempts to get wider access to the global financial system following sanctions relief under the JCPOA, the extended suspension of countermeasures was also a better outcome for Iran than could have been the case.

In his Sunday speech, Rouhani suggested that the U.S. had been isolated at the FATF meeting, supported only by Iran’s two bitterest foes.

“The U.S. was left alone with Israel and Saudi Arabia in the latest FATF meeting,” Rouhani told the judiciary officials.

(After the FATF meeting an Iranian diplomat said the U.S. had been compelled to accept the decision to renew the freeze of restrictions, as a result of pressure from European governments.)

Rouhani said in Sunday’s speech Iran should develop foreign policies which ensure that the U.S. stands together with only Israel and Saudi Arabia – rather than in ways which would see the Europeans, Russians and Chinese stand behind the U.S.

“Does it suit us better for the U.S. to remain alone on the international arena alongside Israel and Saudi Arabia, or should we act in such a way that would make the entire Europe, China, and Russia stand behind the United States?” he asked.

He told the meeting that it was not Iran’s function to help an “enemy” who sought to prevent the region from having peace but rather “wants the region to always be at war, to sell weapons and have the excuse to interfere.”

“Being revolutionary,” said Rouhani, “means isolating the U.S.”

Six weeks ago President Trump and Saudi King Salman convened a summit of Arab and Islamic leaders in Riyadh where Iran’s policies in the region and at home were almost universally condemned.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow