This speech will also be his last in his current term as Iran’s President, coinciding with President Obama’s last appearance at the UNGA. 

This year, Rouhani’s message is different, since Iran has achieved its objectives of having sanctions lifted.  This year’s message is aimed at not only to advancing Iran’s “moderate” agenda, but also strives to appeal to the hard-line ruling-politicians of Iran including Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, senior generals of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Quds force, Iran’s ministry of intelligence, and its conservative judiciary branch, according to Dr. Rafizadeh. 

Additionally, this year, thousands of Iranian-American dissidents and their supporters have held a rally outside the UN Headquarters in New York protesting Rouhani’s visit. 

Dr. Rafizadeh states that the agenda that Rouhani and his foreign minister Javad Zarif promoted at the UNGA 71 are as follows:

• Depicting Iran as the frontrunner of fighting against terrorism in the region

• Demonizing Iran’s regional rivals by describing them as contributors to   extremism and terrorism

• Blaming the US for not adhering to the terms and parameters of the nuclear deal (aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA)

• Attempting to attract more investors in order to bring more revenues by conducting business deals with the Islamic Republic. 

Further, Dr. Rafizadeh says, “One of the top priorities of the Iranian team at the UNGA was discussing the threat of ISIS and other radical groups. Within this landscape, Iran depicts itself as the victim as well as the forerunner of fighting this threat,” adding that, “This narrative makes Iran to be an indispensable force for the West in the battle against terrorism. As a result, due to these benefits that Iran claims to be offering the West for fighting terrorism, Tehran will inevitably become the West’s geopolitical and tactical ally.”  With this, Rouhani hopes to pressure the West into ignoring Iran’s transgressions, such as its role in Syria, Iraq, etc., and its violations of UN Security Council resolutions regarding the nuclear deal. 

“This narrative will also buttress Iran’s argument that the international community needs to support the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s staunchest ally, in the battle against ISIS and other radical Sunni groups.  Meanwhile while Iran describes itself as the formidable force in fighting terrorism and fundamentalist groups, Rouhani and his technocrat team try to show that Iran’s regional rivals are a crucial reason behind the surge in extremist groups. This narrative will further change the West calculations in leaning toward Iran’s regional rivals,” says Dr. Rafizadeh. 

“All four rounds of the UN Security Council sanctions have been lifted thanks to the Obama administration’s efforts including giving exemptions to Iran to meet the deadlines,” but Dr. Rafizadeh believes Rouhani’s other priority includes “blaming the US for not honoring its promises when it comes to the implementation of the nuclear deal,” in an attempt to get more concessions from Washington, and also send a message to the Iranian people that the US is untrustworthy, and “that the US is the reason why they have not seen the fruit of the lifting of sanctions.” 

In a recent speech,Khamenei pointed out that the US is attempting to “destroy Iran’s economic relationships with other countries,” and added, “Was it not supposed to be so that the unjust sanctions would be removed and it would have an effect on people’s lives? After six months, is there any tangible effect on the lives of the people? If not for America violating its oaths, would the administration not be able to do many things during this time? … Of course it has been some years that I have been repeating this about the lack of trust with America, but for some it was hard to accept this reality.”  

“Now, Rowhnai is tactically shifting his message to resemble that of the hardline spectrum of Iran. After all, he also needs the blessings of the hardliners, particularly Khamenei, in order to increase his odds of winning Iran’s upcoming presidential race,” Dr. Rafizadeh concludes.