Trump to Chair Upcoming Security Council Meeting on Iran That Rouhani May Attend

By Patrick Goodenough | September 5, 2018 | 4:23am EDT
The U.N. Security Council meets on Tuesday to discuss its program of work for the month of September. The United States presides over the council this month. (UN Photo)

(Update: Asked Wednesday whether he’d like to meet Iran’s Rouhani at the U.N., President Trump said, “Anything is possible, but we’ll see.”)

( – “The world is watching.”

That’s the message the Trump administration wants to highlight by convening a U.N. Security Council meeting this month “to address Iran’s violations of international law and the general instability Iran sows throughout the entire Middle East region,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Tuesday.

The U.S. presides over the Security Council this month, and President Trump himself will chair the Iran meeting on September 26. When he does, his Iranian counterpart also may be seated at the council’s iconic horseshoe-shaped table, since U.N. rules allow a country that is the subject of a council meeting to take part – whether or not that country is a member of the council.

President Hassan Rouhani will in New York City at the time for the annual General Assembly Session opening. Haley told reporters at the U.N. that if he wishes to take part in the Security Council meeting, the U.S. would agree to that.

There has been no meeting between incumbent U.S. and Iranian presidents since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Obama administration officials tried to arrange an “encounter” between President Obama and Rouhani at the U.N. in 2013, but the Iranian delegation declined. Obama did speak to Rouhani by phone before he flew out, a conversation that is believed to be the first direct communication between sitting U.S. and Iranian presidents since the revolution.

Just six weeks ago, Trump warned Rouhani in an explosive tweet to never again threaten the U.S., or risk “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.’’

(He was responding to Rouhani’s warning that Trump should not “play with the lion’s tail” and that a war with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”)

A week after that tweet, Trump said he was willing to meet with Rouhani, “with no preconditions,” anytime the Iranians wanted to do so.

In an evident response in mid-August, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he was outlawing all negotiations with the U.S.

In response to queries about a Trump-chaired Security Council meeting on Iran, and the possibility of Rouhani taking part, Iran’s mission to the U.N. drew attention to a tweet by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

“There's only one UNSC resolution on Iran,” Zarif said (referring to the 2015 resolution enshrining the JCPOA nuclear deal).

“[Trump] is violating it & bullying others to do same. Now he plans to abuse presidency of SC to divert a session – item devoted to Palestine for 70 yrs – to blame Iran for horrors US & clients have unleashed across M.E. #chutzpah.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, photographed here on arrival in the Persian Gulf port city of Assalouyeh on Tuesday, is planning to visit New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly session opening this month. (Photo: Iranian Presidency)

‘Given a pass for too long’

Haley said there were growing concerns about Iran’s hand in instability across the region, citing support for terrorism and ballistic missile tests, among other things.

“These are all violations of Security Council resolutions, and these are all threats to the region, and these are all things that the international community needs to talk about,” she said.

Haley said Trump was “very adamant that we have to start making sure than Iran is falling in line with international order like every other country.”

She said she understands that some countries find it “uncomfortable” to talk about Iran’s malign activities, but added, “I personally think when we talk about things that are uncomfortable in the Security Council, good things happen.”

“It’s hard to find a place that has conflict where Iran isn’t in the middle of it,” Haley said. “We think that they have been ignored and been given a pass for too long, and we think it’s time that Iran stand up and explain themselves” with regard to their activities in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen.

“We want to make sure they understand that the world is watching. That’s the biggest reason for this meeting, is the world is watching.”

Haley said the U.S. would like nothing more than to have Iran take its place in the international community as “a valid country that wants to do good in the world.”

Asked whether the administration’s Iran strategy includes regime change, Haley said the strategy was to “expose” the regime’s violations and to strengthen the voice of ordinary Iranians “who so desperately want a better life.”

“This is not about regime change and who’s the next leader. This is everything about standing with the Iranian people and say they have every right to be heard in their government, and they have every right to change it if it’s not being led the right way.”

Haley was also asked about recent charges by a U.N. human rights expert that U.S. sanctions against Iran – which are being restored since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal – are illegitimate, since only the Security Council has the authority to impose sanctions.

She replied that the U.S. had called on the international community to address Iran’s violation of Security Council resolutions, and offered to work with partners to do so, without success.

“We tried to talk to them about [new] resolutions and we got nothing,” she said.

(Russia last February vetoed a draft Security Council resolution critical of Iran’s arming of Shi’ite rebels fighting in Yemen – in violation of a 2015 arms embargo – prompting a U.S. delegate to accuse Moscow of acting “only to protect Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region and spread its malign influence.”)

After withdrawing from the “farce” of a nuclear deal, Haley said, “the United States believes we have the ability to have those sanctions put on Iran – because it goes back to the fact that we think they violated Security Council resolutions.”

MRC Store