EghtesadOnline: For the first time in years, Iran is not the center of controversy at the United Nations. For President Hassan Rouhani, that counts as a win.
The annual gathering of leaders used to be where the Islamic Republic was denounced as a pariah by Western powers for the anti-Semitic tirades of Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahoud Ahmadinejad. But with a nuclear deal under his belt, a lower-key Rouhani is enjoying a degree of diplomatic cover as he met with U.K., French, Canadian and Turkish counterparts, reports Bloomberg.
On the eve of his fourth address to the UN General Assembly, Rouhani’s team celebrated news that Boeing Co. received U.S. approval to sell the first jetliners to Iran in almost 40 years. But eight months away from elections, critics blame him for a lackluster economy. Rouhani had promised Iranians that a deal over its nuclear arsenal would usher in a new era of prosperity.
“Rouhani has delivered the nuclear agreement, but there are no indications of the changes he promised during his past campaign,” said Alireza Nader, a senior analyst at Rand Corp. “Social and political repression is still high, and the economy has not improved dramatically and human rights abuses continue unabated.”
Rouhani’s arrival to New York comes after state visits to Venezuela, an ally whose economy is spiraling out of control, and Cuba, which has restored diplomatic ties with the U.S. after five decades. For Rouhani, the UN gathering is a chance to present himself as a statesman on the world stage and appease nervous investors.
“There are several major impediments to economic improvement such as low oil prices and the unwillingness of foreign investors to go into Iran, even with reassurances from the U.S.,” Nader said.
Compared to his predecessor, Rouhani has shown more affinity for working with Western powers, holding out the prospect of oil and retail business in a major Middle Eastern economy. He will address the UN on the same day as Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran’s most vocal critic, takes to the podium.
It’s not that Western powers don’t have problems with Iran. It’s just that now they are pressing their cases privately. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May raised the issue of British-Iranians detained in Iran against their will after Rouhani and his entourage, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, met her in New York.
May brought up the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker sentenced for five years earlier this month for allegedly plotting to topple the government. Human rights activists say the case will test Rouhani’s ability to push back against hardliners in the judiciary.
There was no meeting with President Barack Obama, but the rehabilitation of Iran in the global community was unmistakable. In his last speech at the UN, the outgoing U.S. leader praised "Iran’s ability to work with other nations."