Part 2: Rouhani on U.S. at U.N.

September 25, 2018

RouhaniIranian President Hassan Rouhani repeatedly rebuked the Trump Administration—for abandoning the historic 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and “bullying the world”— during his four-day visit to the U.N. General Assembly. “The government of the United States—at least the current administration—seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual,” the Iranian leader told the General Assembly on September 25. He implied that Trump's withdrawal from global institutions and agreements is "a symptom of the weakness of intellect" that "betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world." Rouhani called the Trump administration’s decision to renew sanctions on Iran—splitting with the world’s five other major powers and in defiance of a U.N. resolution—a “form of economic terrorism.” 

Rouhani also chastised the U.S. government for seeking regime change in Iran. “It is ironic that the U.S. government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks!” he said. Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton say the administration’s policy is not regime change, but a change in behavior. But Rouhani did not close the door completely to negotiating with the United States on several issues--on condition that Washington embraces the nuclear accord again. 

In a particularly controversial remark, Rouhani charged that the world is now witnessing rulers “who think they can secure their interests better—or at least in the short-term ride public sentiments and gain popular support—through the fomenting of extremist nationalism and racism, and though xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition, as well as through the trampling of global rules and undermining international institutions.” The following is a translation of Rouhani’s address followed by excerpted remarks from other interviews. (For Trump's remarks on Iran at the United Nations, click here). 

 

President Hassan Rouhani’s U.N. Address

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. “Praise be to God, the Lord of the universe and Peace and Blessings be upon the Messenger of God and his Family and Companions.”

Madam President,

I take this opportunity to felicitate your election to the presidency of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

We have assembled here today  as the world is suffering from the recklessness and disregard of some states for international values and institutions. The message of our presence here is that the preservation of interests and security in the world in the least costly manner is solely possible through the cooperation of, and coordination among, countries. However, it is unfortunate that we are witnessing rulers in the world who think they can secure their interests better—or at least in the short-term ride public sentiments and gain popular support—through the fomenting of extremist nationalism and racism, and though xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition, as well as through the trampling of global rules and undermining international institutions; even through preposterous and abnormal acts such as convening  a high-level meeting of the Security Council.

This illusion should be cast away, once and for all, that one can aspire to securing more peace and security at the cost of denying others’ peace and security. We should not allow the breathing space for and growth of the line of thinking that holds others to ransom through the artificial creation of insecurity. Along this tack, confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength; rather it is a symptom of the weakness of intellect—it betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world.   

Under such circumstances, negligence or inefficacy of international institutions can endanger world peace. Those seeking dominance and hegemony are enemies of peace and the perpetrators of war.

The government of the United States—at least the current administration—seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual. This government, having withdrawn from a multilateral agreement adopted by the Security Council, in contravention of the rules and norms of international law, invites the Islamic Republic of Iran to bilateral talks. An administration that is inviting Iran to engage in talks is not ready to consult its own experts nor willing to recognize the requirements of a modern state, including the paramount principle of continuity of state responsibility, and hence openly violates state obligations undertaken by its predecessor.

On what basis and criteria can we enter into an agreement with an administration misbehaving such as this? Any talks should be within the framework and in continuation of the JCPOA and Security Council resolution 2231, and not in a framework of breaching them and reverting to the past. It is ironic that the US government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks!         

Distinguished Colleagues,

The approach of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of foreign policy has been based on multilateralism and compliance with the recognized principles of international law. Our respect for the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the long and difficult negotiations with the Group of 5+1, which led to the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the JCPOA—illustrates a clear manifestation of this approach.

We are pleased that the international community did not acquiesce to the US government’s unilateral and illegal withdrawal from the JCPOA, and adopted a categorical position vis-à-vis that decision. The JCPOA is the outcome of more than a decade of diplomatic efforts and a period of intensive negotiations to resolve an artificial crisis. This document was unanimously approved by Security Council resolution 2231 and codified into an international obligation. According to this resolution, all countries and international and regional organizations were called upon to  support the implementation of the JCPOA, and to refrain from any actions that undermine implementation of commitments under the JCPOA..

Based on 12 consecutive reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency – the IAEA – Iran has thus far complied with all of its commitments. However, the United States, from the very beginning, never remained faithful to its obligations. Later, the current administration, resorting to flimsy excuses and in open violation of its commitments, finally withdrew from the accord. The United Nations should not allow its decisions to fall victim to the domestic election and propaganda games of some of its members, and should not allow any Member State to dodge the execution of its international commitments.  

Additionally, the United States also pressures other countries to violate the nuclear accord. And more dangerously, the United States is threatening all countries and international organizations with punishment if they comply with Security Council resolution 2231. It is the first time in the history of the United Nations that such ‘a general invitation to violation of law’ is coupled with ‘threatening law-abiders with punishment.’ This is not just peculiar to the JCPOA, but a pattern that even applies to the US approach to the International Criminal Court. 

We appreciate the efforts of the international community, the European Union, Russia, and China in supporting the implementation of the JCPOA and consider the full realization of the commitments stipulated in it a precondition for the survival of this significant accomplishment of diplomacy. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Unlawful unilateral sanctions in themselves constitute a form of economic terrorism and a breach of the ‘Right to Development.’ The economic war that the United States has initiated under the rubric of new sanctions not only targets the Iranian people but also entails harmful repercussions for the people of other countries, and that war has caused a disruption in the state of global trade. 

The Iranian people have demonstrated their unwavering resilience during the past forty years despite the difficulties and constraints caused by sanctions, and  have shown that they can overcome this difficult phase as well. The multi-millennial history of our country demonstrates that Iran and Iranians have never broken in the face of a storm of events—not even been bowed. I state here, in clear, unambiguous terms, that the United States policy vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran has been wrong from the beginning, and its approach of resisting the wishes of the Iranian people as manifested in numerous elections is doomed to failure. Iran, with its historical and civilizational longevity, rich cultural heritage, and foremost geopolitical position, is an undeniable reality. The policy of engagement and cooperation with Iran has produced positive outcomes for other nations, as best reflected in Iran’s cooperation with friendly countries in the fight against terrorism. 

The United States’ understanding of international relations is authoritarian. In its estimation, might makes right. Its understanding of power, not of legal and legitimate authority, is reflected in bullying and imposition. No state and nation can be brought to the negotiating table by force, and if so, what follows is the accumulation in the ‘grapes of wrath’ of those nations, to be reaped later by the oppressors.

We concur that, at the end of the day, there is no better way but dialogue. However, dialogue is two-way: it should be based on equality, justice, and human integrity and honor, and conducted in accordance with the rules and norms of international law. UN Security Council resolution 2231 is not a ‘piece of paper’. We invite you to return to that Council resolution. We invite you to come back to the negotiating table you left. If you dislike the JCPOA because it is the legacy of your domestic political rivals, then we invite you to come back to the Security Council resolution. We invite you to remain in the international institutions. Do not engage in imposing sanctions. Sanctions and extremism are two sides of the same coin: Extremism involves negating the thinking of others, and sanctions negate the life and prosperity of people.     

For dialogue to take place, there is no need for a photo opportunity. The two sides can listen to each other right here in this Assembly. I am starting the dialogue right here, and state—in unequivocal terms—that the question of international security is not a toy in American domestic politics. The United Nations is not a  part of the United States administration. Dialogue can resume in this Assembly from the same point and by the same person who left the dialogue table, and walked away from the accord. Beginning the dialogue starts with ending threats and unjust sanctions that negate the principles of ethics and international law.

Our proposal is clear: commitment for commitment; violation for violation; threat for threat; and step for step, instead of talk for talk.

What Iran says is clear: no war, no sanctions, no threats, no bullying; just acting according to the law and the fulfillment of obligations. We support peace and democracy in the entire Middle East. We consider nuclear knowledge an imperative and nuclear weapons prohibited.

As victims of terrorism in the past and today, we have always been and will always remain in the forefront of genuine confrontation with terrorism.  Today, we mourn the martyrdom of tens of innocent people, who were recently murdered in cold blood by terrorists who shamelessly accepted responsibility from a number of Western capitals for their heinous crime in interviews with some Western-based broadcasting outfits that are financed by petrodollars. In Iran we have condemned all acts of terrorism without equivocation and will continue to do so.  We welcome the strong statement from the Security Council on this issue. But why can the leaders of these terrorist operations – including the organization that has publicly claimed responsibility for Saturday’s crime—live and operate freely in Western countries, and even openly solicit funds?  Are these activities not in violation of international counter-terrorism norms? Why have the official State-financiers of anti-Iranian terrorist organizations –with their record of financing Al-Qaeda, ISIS and al Nusrah—not only been spared any punishment but are supported and armed? If you want the world public to take your claim of fighting terrorism seriously, it is imperative to start a joint global campaign to fight this scourge, irrespective of the victims or culprits.

Distinguished Colleagues,

In the same vein, from the very beginning of the crisis in Syria, we have warned against any foreign intervention in the internal affairs of this country and the use of unlawful means, including supporting extremist and terrorist groups in order to exert pressure on the government of Syria, and have consistently emphasized that the crisis can only be resolved through intra-Syrian dialogue. To this end, the presence of our military advisors in Syria has been at the request of the Syrian government and consistent with international law, and has aimed at assisting the Syrian government in combatting extremist terrorism. Iran, Russia, and Turkey, in cooperation with the government of Syria and other Syrian parties, have succeeded through the Astana Process, the third summit meeting of which took place in Tehran earlier this month, in playing a positive role in reducing tension in Syria, and in their last common effort have prevented escalation and bloodshed in the Idlib region. 

We have witnessed a tragic humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen over the past three years which has caused the destruction of infrastructure, the killing and injury of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of millions of innocent people, and the occurrence of widespread famine and chronic diseases. These inhuman acts represent clear examples of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The crisis in Yemen can be resolved solely through intra-Yemeni talks and without foreign interference. And to this end, we are ready to assist in any possible way. 

The most pressing crisis in the Middle East, however, is the question of Palestine. The passage of time cannot – and must not –justify occupation. The innumerable crimes of Israel against the Palestinians would not have been possible without the material and military assistance, and political and propaganda support of the United States. Israel, equipped with a nuclear arsenal and blatantly threatening others with nuclear annihilation, presents the most daunting threat to regional and global peace and stability. 

The abhorrent U.S. decision to transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and the recent enactment of the racist Jewish State law are violations of international law and norms, and unmistakable manifestations of apartheid.

Madam President,

The expansion of relations with neighbors and the creation of a more secure and more developed region are among the main priorities of Iran’s foreign policy. A few weeks ago Iran, along with the other four coastal states, signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which will strengthen good-neighborliness and bring prosperity and progress for all of the coastal states. We also desire the same relations with our southern neighbors in the Persian Gulf. We believe in the formation of a collective mechanism for the Persian Gulf region with the presence and participation of all regional countries. The security of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz has always been important for us, and just as we defended this security during the war imposed on us by Iraq, we will confront any and all disruptive efforts in this critical waterway in the future.

We espouse a peaceful view in  political and international issues and have not sought, nor do we seek, war with any country. Iran does not need an empire. Iran is an empire in terms of its civilization and its culture; not through political domination.

Iran has served as the link between east and west and will continue to do so; remaining a meticulous guardian for a world free from violence.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the same state that understood the fascistic nature of the Ba’athist regime in Iraq before anyone else in the world, and bravely resisted its aggression against us. We fought against the Ba’ath Party of Iraq before Kuwait was occupied by it.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the same state that was on the forefront of the struggle against Taliban terrorism, and gave up martyrs in that struggle. We fought against Al-Qaida and the Taliban before the attacks on New York and Washington.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the same state that fought against Daesh – a fake, distorted representation of Islam. We were engaged in the fight against Daesh before their operations in Paris, London and Brussels.

Appreciate these historical realities about Iran. Quit imposing sanctions and end extremism. The world will not have a better friend than Iran, if peace is what you seek.   

I thank you for your attention.

—Sept. 25, 2018, in an address at the United Nations

 

U.S. Sanctions and Foreign Policy

"We consider U.S. sanctions illegal and cruel against the Iranian nation, and the sanctions affect Iranian people’s judgement towards the U.S. government, and it's not for no reason that the slogans against the United States have become stronger than ever before in mass demonstrations.”

“Imposing sanctions on Iran to prevent us from selling our oil will be very dangerous ... and it cannot succeed.”

“The goal that Americans are seeking to deprive Iran of selling its oil is not only not feasible, but will be very dangerous, and I hope we can continue to trade with friendly countries within the framework of international regulations.”

“The U.S. sanctions harms ordinary Iranians but also it puts pressure on foreign companies who have to withdrew from Iran’s market, fearing America’s sanctions.”

“Americans have always been supporting terrorist groups that have been working against the Iranian people and a group of those terrorists now have political activities in the United States. The United States cannot be indifferent to terrorist operations that violate all international regulations.”

—Sept. 24, 2018, during a meeting with senior media executives in New York

 

"Americans want Iran to have no security. They want to create chaos and turmoil and set the conditions so that they can return to the country one day and take charge as they did in the old days, but none of these is possible."

"These are unattainable dreams and America will never achieve any of these goals."

—Sept. 24, 2018, at JFK Airport in New York 

 

LESTER HOLT: How much are the sanctions that have already been re-imposed-- how much are they hurting your country? And in what ways are they affecting your country?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: Sanctions has brought pressure upon the people of our nation. And at the same time it has made our exports-- it has augmented our exports. And our national production has seen a positive forward movement under these sanctions. The United States of America has brought all of its efforts to bear in order to trample upon all the norms and regulations of international trade.

It has had the aim of bringing other countries, companies, and firms under pressure against international laws in order for them to cease their relationships with Iranian partners and entities. So there is a—duel, if you will, between Mr. Trump and those who seek stability, and security, and cooperation in the region.

All other countries in our region with the exception of a couple of them, as well as worldwide, do not accept or approve of Mr. Trump's behavior and do believe that the JCPOA benefits the region as well as the international community worldwide as a whole. So it is an international effort. It is not just an Iranian effort. Many countries, the greatest majority of countries, accept our positions and approve of our positions.

And we are hopeful that ultimately we will put this behind us and ultimately the United States will realize that on this path that it has chosen it is alone and from a legal standpoint, a diplomatic standpoint, the stan-- the standard of proper comportment, it has done everything erroneously vis-à-vis this issue and it has not benefited ultimately.

LESTER HOLT: The secondary round of sanctions is scheduled to begin in November. The U.S. has made it clear that it wants to bring your oil exports down to zero. Do you think that will happen? And how will you respond if it does?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: First of all, the United States of America in action has already done what will take place supposedly November. In this very month of September it has brought tremendous pressure on many countries, those who are our crude petroleum customers and purchasers. So the appearance is that November is still-- some weeks away.

But in the month of September, what was scheduled for the United States to do is taking place. But it was scheduled to be done in November. So the United States is not capable of bringing our oil exports to zero. This is an empty promise. And it's a threat that is empty of credibility. Perhaps on this path we will sustain certain pressures. But certainly the United States will not reach its objective.

LESTER HOLT: Some of the statements from Iranian officials have given the impression that Iran might move to shut down the Strait of Hormuz-- to block all exports from the Persian Gulf. Is that something that you would consider?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: If the United States wishes to use force in order to sanction the petroleum industry of Iran, it will certainly see the appropriate response. We do have the power to secure our own waterways and keep our waterways free. And during the past many centuries, it has been Iran that has had an effective role in securing the safety and security of the waterways in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Sea of Oman. And we will continue this role in the future.
 
LESTER HOLT: Is that a warning to the Trump administration? Should they take it as a warning?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: This is not a warning. This is a reality. If the Persian Gulf waterway, which is to remain free and secure, it must remain so for everyone.

 

U.S.-Iran Diplomacy

"If Trump wants to talk to Iran, then he first should return to the nuclear deal."

—Sept. 24, 2018, during a meeting with senior media executives in New York

“America withdrew from the deal without any reason and logic, and this meant that the bridge that was being rebuilt between the two countries went towards destruction again.”

“America is an important country in the world and Iran is an effective country in the critical Middle East region, and we could take good steps in creating trust and communication.”

—Sept. 24, 2018, to American foreign policy experts

 

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: There is no such program for a meeting. Mr. Trump did not create conditions necessary to bring about the atmosphere conducive to a meeting.

LESTER HOLT: He has expressed a willingness to meet with you. Has anyone reached out to you, to your office on his behalf to try to arrange a meeting while you were both in New York?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: Naturally if someone is keen on having a meeting, and holding dialogue, and creating progress in relationships, that person would not use the tool of sanctions and threats when a government brings to bear all of its power against another government and nation. That means that the necessary willpower is absent in order to resolve outstanding issues.

LESTER HOLT: Mr. President, you and all of us witnessed the United States president, President Trump-- travel to Singapore and sit down with Kim Jong-un. A country that does have nuclear weapons. I'm curious how you view that meeting and if there was somewhere a model in there that-- that might broach an opening for dialogue between Iran and the United States.

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: The North Korean model cannot be a correct model because we cannot draw such comparisons. But certainly there are different models out there that can be used, parts of which can be used in order to decrease tensions between Iran and the United States. This is in the hands of the Trump administration for it to cease its threatening behavior towards Iran and to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

—Sept. 24, 2018, in an interview with NBC News

 

The Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)

“The President of the United States has withdrawn from a very important agreement without any reason and has threatened the people of Iran, imposing sanction on them, and these actions cannot simply be overlooked. North Korea is completely different from Iran.”

“Trump did some very incorrect actions against Iran and the Iranian nation. He has withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), threatened the Iranian nation without any reason, imposing sanctions and interfering in our internal affairs. Before anything, these incorrect actions must be compensated.”

“Iran has lived up to its obligations in JCPOA to date, and if 5 countries adhere to their commitments, we can preserve it, but if other conditions come about, naturally, we will also make our decision in those circumstances.”

“Despite the fact that the United States has pulled out of the deal, we remain committed to it. The yardstick in our country is people's vote, and people know that we did not initiate the withdrawal, and the United States is the country that has withdrawn from it.”

“If Trump wants to talk to Iran, then he first should return to the nuclear deal.”

“Iran will remain committed to the deal ... as long as other members remain committed to the pact and fulfill their promises.”

—Sept. 24, 2018, during a meeting with senior media executives in New York

 

LESTER HOLT: So what are the conditions to resolve some of the issues you talk about that would allow you to meet? What would you like the United States to do as a first step to open up the opportunity for dialogue?
 
PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: In my opinion the United States of America, that same bridge that left behind and demolished with its exit and violation of the JCPOA and the language of threats, that bridge must be rebuilt in order for both countries to be able to set programs for such conducive atmosphere and for their mutual futures.

LESTER HOLT: As you note, the United States has withdrawn from the-- from the nuclear deal. The other countries are still officially in the accord. Why are you still in the agreement? Why have you not now left given the U.S. exit?
 
PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: Well, the United States of America was hoping that with its violation of the JCPOA we would naturally exit the JCPOA as well so that the case could be referred to the United Nations Security Council and via the United Nations, Iran could be brought under sanctions again. However, the planning and the vision of Mr. Trump failed to materialize.
 
Against the norms, he violated the JCPOA, and exited the JCPOA, turned the American government's back on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, and in reality trampled upon a resolution of the United Nations. Until such time that our interests are guaranteed with the five remaining countries, we will remain within the JCPOA.
 
LESTER HOLT:
That means you will adhere to the limits on uranium production. But what would happen if those other countries are not able to live up to the terms? Is Iran prepared to go forward with its nuclear program?
 
PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: Well, a one-sided agreement would be meaningless. If-- an agreement under which we would accept the limitations, we would also need to benefit from accepting certain limitations. So our remaining within the framework of the JCPOA would necessitate and would mean that the five remaining countries would need to adhere to their commitments and duties as well.

—Sept. 24, 2018, in an interview with NBC News


Terrorism

LESTER HOLT: The U.S. released its annual terror report recently. And it found Iran was one of the worst offenders-- supporters of terrorism. How do you respond to their continued complaints and concerns about your support-- Iran's support for Hamas and Hezbollah?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: I do believe that Saturday's event in Ahvaz clearly responds to these U.S. allegations. The United States only in words says that she’s against terrorism. But in actions it is not so. Countries, governments in our region whom support terrorism, terrorism that is against the Iranian nation, terrorism that is against the Syrian nation, or the Iraqi nation, or Yemen, these countries have very tight relations and close relations with the United States of America.
 
And I ask you-- all of the bombs falling on the Yemeni people that are being used against them on a daily basis, where do they come from? The airplanes that carry the ordinance that target Yemeni people, where do they come from? The weapons and weapon systems found in the hands of Daesh or ISIS in Iraq and Syria, many of them were U.S. manufactured and made. So only in words they express as being against terrorism. But in action, unfortunately, we see that they do support terrorists.

This double standard must be set aside by the United States of America. If we see terrorism as a danger for world stability and world peace, which indeed it is so, then all of us must correctly and straightforwardly combat terrorism. The United States of America names those who are today fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria as terrorists.

If Daesh or ISIS is a terrorist group, then what do we make of those whom are fighting against ISIS or Daesh? Then you cannot name them both terrorists. The terrorists, as well as those that are fighting against them, are both terrorists? It cannot be so. Not in Syria. Not in any country. So there is a gap between the comportment and the expressions of the United States of America.
 
LESTER HOLT: So let me be clear here. Do you think the United States supported the groups that-- that launched the attack at Ahvaz that killed dozens of people?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: The United States of America-- yesterday one of the American officials clearly and openly supported these terrorists. Said that in Ahvaz-- if something took place, Iran must not seek the roots of that terrorist attack in other countries. It brings to bear the comportment of the Iran government. So in other words, what they're saying is that the United States of America justifies terrorist activity, and supports such activity, and sees the cause of this activity as the government of Iran.

If this is indeed so, if this train of thought makes sense, how do we apply the same logic to the terrorist attacks of September 11th? How would we view it? How would we view the terrorist attacks perpetrated on Paris, on Brussels? So, in other words, the terrorists are innocent and the governments are guilty? And the terrorists are fighting for their own objectives, and the governments are guilty of not capitulating to them? Yesterday, in the United Nations it was clearly announced that the United-- that the Islamic Republican of Iran must surrender to these terrorists. And this was quite an embarrassment for them.

—Sept. 24, 2018, in an interview with NBC News

 

Syria

“Iran, Turkey and Russia have been able to take good steps in establishing peace and security and fighting terrorism in Syria.”

“The three countries’ agreement prevented bloodshed in Idlib from breaking out and we hope that the Astana process, along with Geneva process, can achieve full success.”

—Sept. 26, 2018, in a meeting with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres

 

“Iran’s presence in Syria is based on the invitation of the government of the country to fight terrorism. We are the victim of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. This is why when the governments of Syria and Iraq called for help in the fight against terrorism, we went there without hesitation.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will be present in Syria based on the invitation of its government until the complete elimination of terrorism in Syria.”

—Sept. 24, 2018, to American foreign policy experts

 

LESTER HOLT: I want to ask you about Syria. And-- I want to ask you what Iran's end game is in Syria. How does this end?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: In my opinion, the trend in Syria in the past few months and in the past few years has been a good one. The terrorist groups have suffered continuous defeats. Many of the cities throughout Syria have been freed from the hands of terrorists. The capital of Syria, Damascus, today is much more secure and safe than at any time in the past few years. So the terrorists have lost much territory and currently hold very little territory.

More than 90% of the Syrian territory is under control of the Syrian government. So the cooperation between Iran, Turkey, and Russia has been quite effective. This cooperation has been very effective thus far and very positive for Syria. And our efforts are on creating a cooperation and a dialogue between the government of Syria and the opposition groups based upon which a new constitution can be written, based upon which then elections can be held that will determine the future Syrian government. So our future expectations for Syria is increased freedom, reconstruction, democracy, and the repatriation of those that were driven from their homes.
 
LESTER HOLT: If Assad is ultimately successful, does Iran exit? At what point does Iran withdraw from Syria?

PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S TRANSLATOR: Our presence in Syria has only to do with the will of the Syrian government. From the very beginning when we entered Syria was based upon the invitation of the Syrian government, based upon which we sent our military advisors there. And our fight was focused against terrorists. Whenever terrorists are defeated in Syria and terrorism ceases to exist in Syria, and the government of Syria has no need for us, then at that point our continued presence in Syria will not have any meaning or serve any purpose.

—Sept. 24, 2018, in an interview with NBC News

 

“Israel admits that it is constantly interfering in Syria and bombing the country, in violation of international regulations. These measures will not help the region.”

—Sept. 24, 2018, during a meeting with senior media executives in New York

 

Click here for Trump's remarks on Iran at the United Nations.