The author is AYA BATRAVY
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Iran’s president insisted Wednesday that his country is serious about renewing a deal designed to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear bomb, but questioned whether Tehran could trust America’s commitment to any possible arrangement.
The US has already “trampled” on the previous deal, President Ebrahim Raisi told the UN General Assembly, referring to America’s decision to withdraw from the agreement in 2018.
Since Iran’s 1979 revolution that toppled the Western-backed Shah, Tehran has been at odds with the United States and has sought to position itself as a counterweight to American power.
Tehran’s determination to resist US pressure has seen it forge close ties with countries such as Russia, develop a domestic ballistic missile program and try to export its narrow revolutionary ideals to Middle Eastern countries through Shiite militias and proxies.
Its nuclear program, which Iran insists is for peaceful energy, is seen as an extension of its defiance of the American-led world order.
After former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal brokered by the Obama administration, Tehran has steadfastly abandoned all of the deal’s limits on its nuclear enrichment.
But efforts to save the deal are now nearing tipping point. European Union officials have warned that the window to secure a nuclear deal will soon close.
In exchange for agreeing to the terms of a new nuclear deal, Iran will receive an easing of economic sanctions and greater access to global financial markets and the flow of US dollars.
“There is a great and serious will to solve all the problems” at the nuclear talks, Raisi said, but added: “Our desire is only one: to keep the commitments.”
“Can we really believe, without guarantees and assurances, that they will deliver on their commitments this time?” he asked the US
Changes in American foreign policy with successive administrations have worried not only Iran but also US allies, who have questioned America’s reliability and commitment to agreements ranging from climate to security.
Even as he expressed his desire to reach a deal, Raisi criticized what he said was a one-sided examination of Iran’s nuclear activities while other countries’ nuclear programs remain secret – a reference to Israel, which has never confirmed or denied having such weapons. . Israel, which strongly opposes the nuclear deal, accuses Iran of hiding aspects of its nuclear program from UN inspectors.
“We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” US President Joe Biden said in a speech at the UN, but he stressed that the US was ready to join the deal if Iran stepped up its commitments.
Raisi, who was previously head of Iran’s judiciary, also condemned Western “double standards” on human rights. He accused Israel of building the world’s largest prison through the blockade of the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
He also mentioned mass burials of indigenous people found in Canada and how the US detains migrants and refugees at its southern border.
Wearing the traditional black turban identified with Shiite clerics, Raisi held up a photo of slain General Qasem Soleimani, whom he described as “a man seeking freedom.” The head of the Revolutionary Guard, which controlled Iranian militias and armed groups in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and beyond, was killed in a strike authorized by Trump in 2020 at the height of tensions with Iran.
Raisi, who was sworn in as president only a year ago, has been described as a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He spoke for the first time from the podium at the UN in the role of president. Last year, he addressed the assembly virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.
He told the assembled leaders that Iran wanted to have “broad relations with all our neighbors” – an apparent reference to foe Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the region.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have held a series of direct talks over the past year, although tensions remain high between them. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates recently reopened its embassy in Tehran and sent an ambassador there.
Raisi’s speech came at a difficult time in Iran.
Israel’s shadow war against Iran continues. He is widely believed to be behind the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists and sabotage attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
Meanwhile, Western sanctions, which Raisi called “punishment of the Iranian people,” have eaten away at Iran’s reserves, worsened inflation and devalued the Iranian currency against the U.S. dollar.
Economic protests have erupted – and are often met with deadly force.
In recent days, protesters have clashed with police in cities across the country, including the capital, over the death of a 22-year-old woman who was detained by morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.
Raisi offered his condolences to the woman’s family and promised an investigation, while other Iranian officials accused unnamed foreign countries of using the incident to incite unrest. Her death sparked long-standing anger among many Iranians, especially young people, at the country’s ruling clergy.
Associated Press writer Joseph Krauss contributed to this report.
Aya Batrawi, Associated Press correspondent in Dubai, is on assignment at the UN General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ayaelb
For more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly