It was always going to be a state ceremony of grandeur and pomp, but the current turbulence in Middle East politics ensured that Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration as President of Iran became an occasion of significant resonance.
Iran, its adversaries Saudi Arabia and the Donald Trump administration have demanded, should once again be shunned as a pariah state. The US has imposed tough new sanctions and President Trump is threatening to pull the plug on the nuclear deal between the country and international powers which has been achieved through years of painstaking negotiations. Hawks in his team have talked about instigating regime change in Tehran.
In the event representatives from a hundred countries turned up in Tehran. The likes of Robert Mugabe and Kim Yong Nam, the President of the Supreme Peoples’ Assembly of North Korea, may be ignored by Washington and Riyadh. But the presence of senior figures from most Western European countries, including Britain’s Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and ministers from from Russia, China and India was a clear sign that the attempt to isolate Iran was failing for the time-being.
At his swearing-in ceremony Mr Rouhani warned those present that America was trying to sabotage the nuclear accord. Mr Trump’s aggression, said the President, may come to a sticky end: “Those who want to tear up the nuclear deal should know that they will be ripping up their own political life.”
“The US’s repeated violations of its commitments and the new sanctions it imposed on Iran have left a negative impact on public opinion here and this will put the nuclear agreement at risk. Iran would not be the first to pull out of the nuclear deal, but it will not remain silent about the US violations,” he said.
Earlier, in a meeting with Ms Mogherini, the Iranian President praised the high European representation saying that it showed many Western states were prepared to build bridges with his country despite American pressure. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also reportedly said in the meeting: “Mr Trump is trying to destroy the nuclear accord at Iran’s expense, and Europe should be conscious of this.”
Tehran milked the attendance: the names of all attending countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe were read out at the ceremony in Parliament. While some of these countries too were keen to use the stage to stress their agenda. Qatar,…