In his 2023 U.N. speech, President Ebrahim Raisi accused Western intelligence agencies of instigating one of the biggest psychological wars in history by provoking three months of nationwide protests after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September 2022. The Iranian leader blamed Washington for many of the world’s ills. He declared that Western power is waning.
“The world is changing and transitioning to an emerging international order, and this path is irreversible,” he told the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly. “The old liberal order, which served the interests of insatiable dominators and capitalists, has been pushed aside and, in a word, the project of Americanizing the world has failed,” Iran has sought to deepen ties with China, Russia and rising powers in Asia. “The old powers are declining. They are the past and we are the future,” he boasted.
The hardline cleric also questioned the U.S. commitment to restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. “America needs to prove by building trust that it has good intentions and has a real will to fulfill its commitments,” Raisi told the world body. He called the United States the “world’s only nuclear criminal” for failing its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Washington had also violated international law by sanctioning Iran, he charged.
Raisi also repeated Iran’s intent to take revenge against U.S. officials for the 2020 assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force. “Iran will not stop using all the tools and capacities to execute justice and prosecute the perpetrators and managers of this state terrorism until a definite result is achieved,” he warned. “The blood of the oppressed will not be trampled, and it will hunt the oppressor.”
Raisi's address came one day after Iran and the United States conducted a rare prisoner exchange, the product of more than a year of behind-the-scenes and indirect negotiations conducted through Qatar and Oman. His combative language about the United States cast doubt on prospects for further diplomacy. In contrast, President Joe Biden only mentioned Iran once in his U.N. address just hours earlier. “We’re working with our partners to address Iran’s destabilizing activities that threaten regional and global security and remain steadfast in our commitment that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon.” The following are excerpts from Raisi’s U.N. address and sideline events in New York City organized by issue.
On the 2022 protests and the mandatory hijab
To the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023: “Last year was the year of the victory of the Iranian nation. Some Western countries and their intelligence services made a miscalculation last year and once again underestimated the power of the Iranian nation.
“Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, the enemies of the Iranian nation have imposed all kinds of wars, sanctions and maximum pressure on our people with ‘consecutive crises.’ It has been 45 years since these policies have failed and the Iranian nation has achieved ‘consecutive victories.’ Now they are facing an Islamic Republic that has both resisted and progressed on the basis of a deep bond with its nation.
“Last year, the Iranian nation was the target of the biggest media attack and psychological war in history. Can America, which is the biggest prison for mothers in the world, honestly worry about women's rights?
“During this period, the image that was transmitted from Iran to the world was the product of suppressing valid information and disseminating misinformation.”
In a CNN interview that aired on Sept. 24, 2023:
ZAKARIA: So around a year ago that there were those demonstrations across Iran that caused a great deal of internal strife…At the heart of it is this issue of the hijab, about whether women should have their heads covered. I grew up as a Muslim in India. I've traveled all over the Muslim world. Hundreds of millions of Muslims do not believe that this is something women should be told to do. There are dozens of Islamic countries where the governments are very pious and believe in Islam. They are devoted, and they don't believe this. They believe women should have the choice and the right to wear whatever they want and not have a patriarchal system tell them what to do. Are all these hundreds of millions, maybe over a billion Muslims, wrong and only the Islamic Republic of Iran is right?
RAISI: What occurred during the days that you spoke of earlier, that was the presence of a few. The people of Iran did not support in any way those that rioted in the streets of Iran. The people's lack of support defeated their plans. There were some who were fooled. There were others who committed murder, conducted serious crimes. But what occurred last year was a war conducted in the media by the enemy.
I don't want to name TV networks or news networks, but networks who are headquartered in the three European countries and in the United States of America who broadcast news 24 hours a day. They openly teach tactics of terror.
ZAKARIA: But the hijab matters to Iranian women. I've talked to them. They have believed it is an infringement on their rights.
RAISI: Today in the Islamic Republic, hijab is a law. And when an issue becomes part of the law, then everyone must adhere to the laws. So it is the same the world over….The Americans and certain European countries are only seeking to cause a bipolar situation in our society… But rest assured that through the use of these tools they will not succeed. The people of Iran are enlightened, are people of faith, are spiritual people, and they deeply understand that the United States of America and three European countries don't care about their rights, their hijab. A life of respect for women has existed for hundreds and hundreds of years in Iran. It's not a development that we have observed in the past few decades.
To media executives on Sept. 18, 2023: “Hijab, human rights, nuclear issues—these are all pieces that are moved around ... at the hands of the United States of America against the Islamic Republic of Iran because it is a nation that has sought to live peacefully and independently with strength yet not under the dominance of anyone.”
“So, this has been the plan set forth, and these have been the various excuses, the various tools, if you will, in their toolbox.”
“The United States and European countries fan the flames of fires that I mentioned they had set themselves. And we are widely disappointed in this plot that they have sent against the people of Iran, aimed at disruption and [creating] instability.”
“And we see the overcoming of the riots in Iran, and the chaos that was caused by those rioters last year—we took that as a victory for the people of Iran, because they came out victorious in a war that was waged against them.”
“It was an economic war as well, waged in the media, it was a psychological war effort aimed against them—it was defeated—just as sanctions that have been imposed harshly against the people of Iran have been defeated.”
“During the disturbances of last year in Iran, more than 136 thousand lies were produced in the media against Iran within 48 weeks, which cannot be justified by any standard.”
“My suggestion to the American media managers is to ask your officials to reconsider the imposition of sanctions against the Iranian nation, because the Iranian nation has overcome its problems and will not submit to sanctions.”
To foreign policy analysts on Sept. 18, 2023: “America must have understood by now that using the language of force, either in the form of sanctions or threats against the Iranian nation, is not an effective tool, of course, our judgment will be based on actions and what can gain our trust will be changing this coercive behavior and acting based on commitments, which America has not been successful in this field so far.”
“The ill-wishers of the Iranian nation sought to repeat the Syrian model in Iran, but they were wrong because they have still not known the people of Iran and the Islamic revolution.”
“In the incident last year when a girl (Mahsa Amini) had an accident, all medical investigations showed that she was not hit by the police, but did the Western and American media agree to reflect this fact?”
“Our advice to the American government is to stop fighting and sanctioning nations. Historical findings show that in the last 250 years, America has not been at war for only 20 years.”
On Iran’s nuclear program and diplomacy
To the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023: “America's withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) was a violation of the Muslim principle of faithfulness to the covenant. The U.S. government continues to avoid fulfilling its obligations under the JCPOA by clearly violating the provisions of Security Council Resolution 2231.
“With this behavior, America has actually prescribed lawlessness and coercion instead of cooperation, contrary to all its claims. America needs to prove by building trust that it has good intentions and has a real will to fulfill its commitments and finalize the path. The Europeans, who after years of not adhering to their commitments, including the cancellation of sanctions, are now violating the JCPOA and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, must understand that they will lose if they speed up the costly path of confrontation.
“Nuclear weapons have no place in the defense doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Official reports of relevant international authorities and even Western intelligence communities have repeatedly emphasized the truth of this claim. As in the past two decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran will in no way abandon the inalienable rights of its nation to peacefully benefit from nuclear technology.
“The world's only nuclear criminal does not fulfil its obligations under the NPT to disarm nuclear weapons, but by imposing illegal unilateral sanctions, it violates the indisputable principles of international law and the United Nations Charter and violates the rights of nations.
“But these sanctions have had no effect on our nation's decisiveness in the country's progress. It is time for America to end its crisis of decision-making and choose the right path.”
In a CNN interview that aired on Sept. 24, 2023:
ZAKARIA: Iran is at the center of many controversies, but perhaps the most alarming is its nuclear progress. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said earlier this year that Tehran could have fissile material for a bomb in less than two weeks and a nuclear weapon just a few months later. Last weekend the IAEA said Iran has decided to bar several of its inspectors. Tehran has now removed the technical term as D designated about one-third of the agency's most experienced inspectors who were working in Iran. The IAEA director condemned the act and said it severely affects the agency's ability to do its work...Would it be possible to get the IAEA inspectors to the point where they have enough people there who can actually inspect, or is your intention to make it impossible for the IAEA to function in Iran?
RAISI: From the very beginning our aim was to collaborate and cooperate with the IAEA, and they are fully aware of this, within the IAEA, that we have cooperated fully. And this cooperation takes place in two ways… One via installation of cameras that record in real time the activities that take place. Secondly are the inspectors who come there and oversee the nuclear activities in Iran. And in the time that has elapsed thus far, since the agreement, 15 different times the IAEA has said and certified that there are no digressions into any type of Iran's nuclear activity and that it remains purely for civilian and peaceful purposes. And we have announced, time and time again, that the use of nuclear weapons, the use of weapons of mass destruction in general do not have a place. Why? Because we don't believe in it nor do we have a need for it.
However, what we believe--given in particular the fatwa issued by his Eminence, the Supreme Leader, because these are weapons of mass destructions and they can lead to the death of many innocent lives throughout the world--then this is Haram, not religiously allowed to develop or use these weapons… Iran hasn't said we do not wish any inspectors to be here…We have certain considerations vis- a-vis individuals from these three countries. Their trust is under a shadow of doubt.
ZAKARIA: You have designated all American inspectors of course. Now you are de-designating-- which means essentially firing--all the French and the German and the British ones. The IAEA says this will cripple its ability to do the inspections. The IAEA does say there are many unanswered questions…essentially around two sites which were never declared by Iran as nuclear sites… The IAEA believes that they have traced of uranium there. Why would you not answer that question? Were those sites part of a uranium enrichment facility and, if so, why were they never declared?
RAISI: All of the questions have been answered. Whether there were questions that were in any given specific time frame... When we responded to these questions, we did so in official meetings with IAEA officials. Any unanswered questions or ambiguities were clarified. So the misunderstanding or lack of good will that exists, they're not founded in reality. They are simply allegations.
ZAKARIA: Iran is the only country that has only a civilian program, as you claim it is, that enriches to the level you enrich, to 60 percent and higher. Why are you enriching to these high numbers? Doesn't that raise people's suspicions?
RAISI: In the beginning we were not seeking 60 percent levels of enrichment…What the Islamic Republic of Iran did was in response to a breaking of commitment of the signatories to the [2015 nuclear] agreement… The action that we intend to take is not intended to reach nuclear weapons of any type or a military dimension of any type. But it is a response for the lack of commitment demonstrated by the Europeans. And should they at any time return to a fulfillment of their commitments, rest assured and have no doubt that the Islamic Republic, as it has done in the past, will fully adhere to her commitments.
To media executives on Sept. 18, 2023: “During the nuclear agreement, the only party that fulfilled its commitments was the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the United States and European countries violated their commitments and did not fulfil their commitments.”
“Now it is the Americans who should ask their government why, despite the implementation of commitments by Iran and the non-deviation of nuclear activities, the policy of pressure and sanctions against Iran continues?”
To foreign policy analysts on Sept. 18, 2023: “With the change of the government in the U.S. (in 2021) and the declaration of readiness to return to its commitments, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced its readiness and pursued negotiations seriously for a good agreement, but after some time it became clear that the opposite parties did not adhere to their commitments.”
“The American government, due to the wrong advice of some seemingly Iranian mercenary elements, as well as the wrong estimates of the spy services, abandoned the negotiations and set its heart on the results of the riots, while the Islamic Republic of Iran is now a strong tree, and these impulses have no effect on its stability.”
“Regarding sanctions, Biden said at the beginning of his career that he does not accept Trump's method of withdrawing from the JCPOA. So far, we have not seen any different action in practice. The expectation is that if the U.S. government says it adheres to its commitments in words, it will show its adherence in practice.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, before any law, regulations and supervision, according to the fatwa of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, considers any production and use of nuclear weapons prohibited.”
On the U.S.-Iran prisoner swap
“Unfortunately history has shown the lack of trust towards the United States because it has trampled upon commitments and broken promises repeatedly.”
“The funds were unjustly confiscated from the people of Iran” and “will be solely spent to meet the needs of the people of Iran.”
“Certainly, any step taken to fulfill the commitments will be a confidence builder for us.”
The swap “could have been accomplished much sooner had it not been for the wrong calculus of the other side in thinking that instead of choosing the table, pausing the conversations, they are better off betting on the dead horses of rioters and those who cause instability.”
On Russia and the war against Ukraine
To the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023: “Regarding the war between Ukraine and Russia, I would like to emphasize once again the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran in rejecting war as a solution to any conflict. We do not consider the war in Europe to be in the interest of any European side. Rejecting any ceasefire plan in the Ukraine war by the Americans shows that America has a long-term plan to weaken Europe.
“We support any initiative to end the war and start the political process and declare our readiness to play a constructive role in this field.”
“Iran's relations with Russia in various political, economic and defense fields started years before the Ukraine war, and any interaction and exchange between the two countries in the field of defense is also related to before the Ukraine war.”
“We have announced repeatedly that we are willing to mediate in order to bring a cessation of hostilities between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.”
“And our question remains for the United States. Why such eagerness in supplying military hardware and bringing in the dollar amount from those supplies and sales, rather than vigorously entering the arena in order to promote the cessation of hostilities and promote peace?”
To foreign policy analysts on Sept. 18, 2023: “We are against the war and we are ready to mediate in order to end it, but the taxes of the American people pay for war-mongering and to fill the pockets of arms factories from the sale of weapons in this field.”
On a new world order
To the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023: “We are in a decisive historical period. The world is changing and transitioning to an emerging international order, and this path is irreversible.
“The equation of Western domination for the world no longer works. The old liberal order, which served the interests of insatiable dominators and capitalists, has been pushed aside and, in a word, the project of Americanizing the world has failed.
“The nation of Iran is proud that, with the help of its glorious Islamic revolution, it has provided the greatest enlightenment in removing the mask from the faces of the rulers of the East and West, and together with other nations of West Asia, has played a decisive role in the failure of the domination system.
“Now that the resistance and awakening of the nations of the world has increased more than ever and emerging powers have emerged, it is hoped that a new and just order will rule the world.
“What is key to the new international order is to abandon global domination and replace it with regional orders and cooperation.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran supports maximum economic and political convergence within and between regions and is interested in interacting with the whole world based on justice.
“However, now that the independent countries of the world are taking steps towards greater cooperation and convergence, we are witnessing the efforts of some powers to ignite the fire of conflict in different regions. With a Cold War mentality, they seek to divide the world into blocs again. This movement is reactionary and detrimental to the security and well-being of nations.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran firmly believes that a new East and West division should not be allowed to form.
“Securing trade corridors, downgrading countries from allies to dependents, hindering the economic growth of independent countries, and creating proxy wars in Asia and Europe are part of this sinister chain.
“The irony of the story is that these measures are proposed in the name of defending democracy; But the whole world, including our nations in West Asia, have touched the true meaning of Western democracy and know that it is just a code name for coup, occupation and war.
“The task of the world with the project and school of liberal democracy is clear because they know that it is nothing but a velvet glove with a cast iron hand under it. Now, the school that wanted to be a model for the world has become a lesson and is nearing the end of its journey.”
“Humanity is entering a new orbit. The old powers are declining. They are the ‘past’ and we are the ‘future.’ I repeat that they are the ‘past’ and we are the ‘future.’”
On tensions in the Middle East
In a CNN interview that aired on Sept. 24, 2023:
ZAKARIA: The great regional issue going on in the Middle East right now is of course what has been started with the Abraham Accords. The normalization of relations between some Gulf states and Israel. An Arab diplomat, a friend of mine, said the Iranians have managed to achieve the impossible, which is they have brought Israel and the Arabs together against them. Isn't the Abraham Accords fundamentally a failure of Iran's foreign policy because here you have Israel and countries that would not even recognize it, would not even talk to it, coming together largely because they worry about Iran's influence in the region, which they see as malevolent?
RAISI: This was a job done by the Americans to take the hands of the Israelis and put that squarely in the hands of certain Arab countries. This doesn't equal the acceptance of those nations... People in those those Persian Gulf Arab countries have a great deal of hate for the Israeli actions...The frame of thought of the Americans was that that they are somehow creating security for the Zionist regime, [but] normalization of certain countries with Israel does not buy security... The Zionist regime is facing internal strife and difficulties and it is hated outside, whether by countries that are of Muslim faith or otherwise... So, this normalization will see no success just like in previous cases. And this is not a solution for the Zionist regime.
ZAKARIA: You say that Israel is after 75 years has not solved its problems and it is in trouble. But when I look at Israel, it seems to have become one of the richest countries in the region. It is now almost an industrial country by per capita GDP. It has built an extraordinary technology sector. And despite the Palestinian problem they have been able to normalize relations with many Arab countries. Increasingly it seems possible that they will normalize relations with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Iran is isolated. Your GDP growth has been very poor over the last 30 years. A country that used to be one of the richest countries in the region now looks backward in comparison. Iran seems more isolated. Is it worth the price you have paid to have taken all of these positions that you have taken? It feels like for the Iranian people, they have paid a heavy price in terms of lack of development.
RAISI: With the Islamic revolution we gave a loud and clear announcement that we will not go under the hegemony of the West, of America. We wish to be an independent country. We wish to have relations with all countries but they sought only hegemony. What are conditions now in the region? In the situation brought about by the Americans in Syria, was Syria successful or America? Certainly Syria. In Afghanistan, were the people of Afghanistan successful or the United States of America? Certain the people of Afghanistan. In Iraq, were the Iraqis successful or the United States of America? Certain the Iraqis.
Now where in the region has America been successful? You cannot see an example of their success anywhere in the region. The difference in the comparison between Iran, western countries and the Americans, Iran has been the one who has succeeded. Now, America, -- also, it is important to keep in mind, that they wanted for Iran to become isolated. That did not occur.
Is the entire world comprised of three European countries and the United States of America? The world has almost 200 different independent countries. We have relations with a great many of them, most of them. Is today's world scenario showing you that American power is precipitating or that of Iran?
We believe that it is certainly that of the United States of America. And Iran's position is being strengthened by the day.
“We believe that if the Americans stop interfering in the countries of the Persian Gulf and other regions in the world, and mind their own business … the situation of the countries and their relations will improve.”
“The normalization of relations with the Zionist regime (Israel) does not create security.”
To foreign policy analysts on Sept. 18, 2023: “The presence of Americans in the Persian Gulf and the tampering with ships and their seizure causes insecurity in the region.”
To the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023: “At a time when some powers are pushing the world towards more wars, the Islamic Republic of Iran has proposed the policy of ‘neighborhood and convergence.’
“The neighborhood policy is a benevolent policy for the region, and based on this, extensive economic cooperation and strengthening infrastructure links are at the top of the regional agenda. The Islamic Republic warmly shakes every hand that is extended for friendship. It is an independent and powerful neighbor for the region of opportunity.
“Now that our region has passed two decades of imposed tension and crisis and the resistance of free nations in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Afghanistan has borne fruit, the prospects for the region can only be guaranteed by deepening mutual political trust and extensive economic cooperation, and endogenous security.
“Based on this, Iran has established a new chapter of beneficial relations with neighboring, aligned and like-minded countries, and by being a member of regional and international mechanisms, it has shared its capacities to form a fair order, and by prioritizing the completion of trade crossings, including the North-South corridor that connects the world of north with the world of south, ensures sustainable economic benefits for all nations in the region.
“Also, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to share its unique natural and technical capacities in the field of clean energy production and transmission with other countries in order to reduce and manage the harmful effects of climate change.
“At the security level, the neighborhood policy seeks to ensure stable security through intra-regional cooperation and preventing foreign interference. From the Caucasus to the Persian Gulf, any foreign presence is not only part of the solution, but the problem itself. We consider the security of our neighbors as our security and any insecurity for them as insecurity for us.
“We established initiatives in the region with seriousness and goodwill. However, the nexus of politics and security needs to be strengthened and will only be sustainable when combined with meaningful economic cooperation.
“Due to the long experience of colonialism and repeated military aggression, the West Asian region has lost many opportunities for development and progress. Now that under the leadership of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khamenei, the doctrine of resistance has successfully pushed back the waves of occupation and terrorism, a new opportunity and era has been established for the region.
“The power of the Islamic Republic is a security-building power, and by removing the options of war, occupation and partition of countries from the table of the dominating powers, it has opened new horizons for the region. The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the priority of the region is Islamic unity and collective development. Undoubtedly, stabilization of security depends on collective development, and this is the only way to prosperity in West Asia.
“The land of Iran has unique opportunities for investment, and prioritizing economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic is an opportunity for the countries of the region and the world.”
To the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023: “Occupation, terrorism and extremism are among the most important serious threats in West Asia, which disrupt any order based on the interests of the nations of the region.
“The eradication of terrorism depends on the comprehensive and targeted fight against its roots and manifestations and the indiscriminate punishment of terrorists all over the world.
“The use of terrorism by some Western governments as a tool of foreign policy neutralizes the fight of the countries of the region against terrorism.
“The management and exploitation of some Western security services from extremist groups and especially the targeted movement of foreign combatant forces in different geographical areas also fuel these concerns.
“Some European countries should answer why, while claiming to fight terrorism, they have become a safe haven for a terrorist group that has so far assassinated more than 17 thousand Iranian citizens in the street? Discrimination in the fight against terrorism means a green light to terrorists.
“Iran, which is the biggest victim of terrorism, is the pioneer in the fight against terrorism in the region.”
On the U.S. killing of General Qassem Soleimani
To the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023: “The assassination of martyr Qassem Soleimani was a reward for ISIS, which, according to former U.S. officials, was their own creation. Therefore, instead of honoring that brave commander, they assassinated him.
“But the Islamic Republic of Iran will not stop using all the tools and capacities to execute justice and prosecute the perpetrators and managers of this state terrorism until a definite result is achieved; The blood of the oppressed will not be trampled, and it will hunt the oppressor.”
To the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023: “Today's situation in Afghanistan is another manifestation of the effects of Western intervention in the region, which led to the killing of more than 170,000 men, women and children. In Afghanistan, Iran emphasizes the inclusive government and the necessity of respecting the rights of all tribes, ethnicities and religions of this country. At the same time, urgent international action is necessary to deal with the urgent crisis of refugees who have left this country, especially in Iran.”
Photo Credit: President.ir