Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the peace initiative that he will soon unveil at the United Nations General Assembly is aimed at establishing long-term peace in the Persian Gulf, something he said is simply not achievable as long as outsiders are present.
Speaking to government officials before heading to New York, Rouhani said Monday morning that his Hormuz Peace Initiative (HOPE) is designed to include all countries of the region and aims to expand cooperation beyond regional security.
“This plan is about collective work within the Persian Gulf region and we want all countries of the region to partake in it,” Rouhani said. “Of course, the plan that will be laid out at the United Nations won’t be just about security, but rather economy and other issues, all in line with security matters.”
The HOPE initiative comes against the backdrop of tensions in the Persian Gulf, where several tankers and commercial vessels have come under suspicious attacks by unknown parties while attempting to cross the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The United States has blamed the sabotage attacks on Iran, using them as a pretext to build a coalition that would patrol the region.
The US is trying to project the mission as a bid to secure the Persian Gulf, but “the Europeans argue that Washington created the problem in the first place by trying to kill off Iran’s oil exports”, the New York Times wrote last month.
Iran has dismissed the allegations and called the attacks false flag operations, warning regional neighbors to watch out for plots by outsiders to destabilize the region.
Rouhani echoed that stance on Monday, saying any solution to calm tensions must come from within the region and what he called a “coalition of hope.”
“We believe the solution for the region comes from inside the region and those who come from the outside can never bring peace and security,” he said.
Citing America’s military interventions in the Middle East as an example, Rouhani said since entering the region in 2001, the United States has failed to bring back calm to any of the countries that it has deployed forces to.
“I hope we can roll out this plan and tell the world that Iran is looking for lasting peace in the region and is willing to” discuss it with other countries with the UN involved in the process, he said of his HOPE initiative.
‘Aramco oil attack showed US more isolated than ever’
Rouhani also pointed to the September 14 attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities by Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and the biased reactions that it received from Riyadh’s close allies, specially the United States.
The damage from the retaliatory Yemeni attack was so vast that the kingdom lost more than half of its oil output overnight, causing global oil prices to jump.
American officials, along with their Saudi allies, have since pointed the finger at Iran without any evidence even though the Houthis have on several occasions claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it is only one of their many such strikes in retaliation for the Saudi-led war.
“The Aramco [attack] is the outcome of the aggression that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Zionist regime have been leading against Yemen,” Rouhani said.
“If they (the Saudis) don’t initiate aggression, they (the Yemenis) won’t hit back and when they do and see the response, it is hard for them to swallow” the retaliation, the Iranian president continued. “Their cruelty is justified in their own eyes.”
‘Americans don’t want us at UN so we must go’
Rouhani, who faced difficulties obtaining the visa for the UN trip, said he felt compelled to partake in this year’s General Assembly, mainly because the administration of President Donald Trump did not want the Iranian delegation there.
The Americans did not seem “to be very eager to have various Iranian delegations at the UN and speaking to the media,” he said. “The Americans should explain why.”
“The fact that they are not that eager shows that it is imperative for us to be at the UN at different levels and speak out, because we have logic and strong arguments while our enemies don’t,” he continued.
Rouhani said this year’s General Assembly was also significant as it came at a time when the US has hit the rock bottom against Iran after the failure of its so-called “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions.
“We are headed to the UN while the Americans have pushed their sanctions campaign so far that they admit there is nothing left for them to sanction,” the president said, noting that the failures had put Washington in a state of “absolute desperation” against Iran.
Rouhani flew to New York on Monday morning. He is scheduled to give a speech at the 74th UN General Assembly later on Monday and meet with a host of foreign leaders and Iranians living in the US before heading back on Thursday evening.