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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Tehran’s malfeasance must be curbed

Regime’s duplicitousness in words and deeds has been laid bare by US at UNGA

US President Donald Trump speaking at the UN General Assembly. Jeenah Moon / Bloomberg
US President Donald Trump speaking at the UN General Assembly. Jeenah Moon / Bloomberg

When it comes to Iran, the world is at a pivotal juncture. With the looming prospect of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November, the Iranians have gone on a charm offensive at the United Nations this week and there are indications that European powers might be capitulating in an attempt to preserve the flawed 2015 nuclear deal. Against that backdrop, it was always going to be a tumultuous UNGA.

Iran’s malfeasance is manifest to the countries of this region, which have borne its brunt. And the UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, has joined the call for external pressure on Tehran. With the rest of the world slow to take action, US President Donald Trump and his top officials John Bolton and Mike Pompeo have sent the Iranian regime a clear warning: change your destabilising behaviour, or face the repercussions.

Mr Bolton, the US national security adviser, threatened there would be “hell to pay” if Tehran harmed US citizens or America’s Gulf allies. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week published an exhaustive list of accusations against Iran, from supporting terrorism and developing ballistic missiles to cyberattacks and illicit funding activities.

The US administration’s rhetoric might be bellicose, but more than ever before, Tehran’s regional adventurism is clear, while the regime’s failure to provide for its citizens has propelled Iranians onto the streets to protest. The fact that Saudi Arabia has been targeted 197 times by suspected Iranian missiles, according to Riyadh’s foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir, is case in point. All the countries of the Middle East, not least Iran itself, would benefit from regional stability, so the sooner Tehran changes its behaviour, the better.

At the UN, the Iranians have sported a cloak of civility, with President Hassan Rouhani pleading for the US to adhere to a rules-based international order, while repeatedly violating it himself. It is a cynical attempt, in the words of UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, to create “a wedge between Washington’s approach and the European policy”.

But there is a disconnect between Tehran’s words and deeds. In Syria, Iran has funded militias and fuelled new ones, preserving the regime of Bashar Al Assad. In Yemen, Tehran has backed and armed the Houthi rebels, who overthrew the country’s legitimate government in 2014. And in Lebanon, Iran has captured the very organs of the state through its proxy, Hezbollah. These are just three infractions among hundreds.

Influential countries of the world should join the US and its Gulf allies in holding Tehran to account. Yet European nations are instead exploring a possible credit-based barter system to bypass US sanctions. As Mr Bolton said, such a scheme would be “one of the most counterproductive measures for regional and global peace and security”.

Protests in Iran demonstrate that revenue is allocated not to its people but to regional adventurism. Until the regime expresses a willingness to change, only economic and diplomatic isolation will curtail its malfeasance. It is time the rest of the world realised that too.