Iran’s president threatens US officials from the UN podium, dimming hopes for a rapprochement
By Farnaz Fassihi
A day after the U.S. and Iran exchanged prisoners and Washington released $6 billion of Iran’s frozen assets, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gave no signs of seeking further reconciliation with the U.S., threatening to retaliate for the killing of an Iranian general.
In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Raisi called the U.S. assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, “a terrorist act.” He then repeated Iran’s threats to take revenge on those who ordered and carried out the killing.
Soleimani was killed in Iraq in 2020, when Donald Trump was president, in a U.S. drone strike targeted against him. Iran retaliated by launching a ballistic missile attack on American military bases in Iraq, and more than 100 American soldiers suffered concussions as a result, the U.S. military has said.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, through all tools and capacities in order to bring to justice the perpetrators and all those who had a hand in this government sanctioned act of terror, will not sit until that is done,” Raisi said Tuesday. “The blood of the oppressed will not be forgotten.”
Iranian officials have made similar threats in the past, but this one may take on added weight coming from the president of the country repeating it in one of the most prominent international forums, with world leaders in attendance. In his speech to the Assembly last year, Raisi held up a picture of Soleimani and said he was a hero to many people in the Middle East, and that Trump should face trial for ordering his killing.
Law enforcement officials have said they have detected serious threats from Iran against former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton. As Raisi vowed revenge Tuesday, a lone U.S. representative in the assembly hall took notes.
Raisi’s comments came hours after President Joe Biden addressed the Assembly and made only one passing mention of Iran, declaring the United States would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Biden’s omission from his speech of other contentious issues with Iran, including its sale of drones to Russia and violations of human rights, appeared to reflect efforts to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Raisi, however, did not reciprocate the tone. He repeatedly slammed the United States for its policies toward Iran and called Trump’s decision to pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran an “egregious crime.” The American sanctions that followed “have not yielded the desired results, and it’s time for the U.S. to change their course,” he said.
Raisi also said Western intelligence agencies had plotted to destabilize Iran and blamed the uprising last year, led by women, on the U.S. and the West.
Mass protests rocked Iran after the death last September of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of the morality police, who said she had been detained for not wearing a hijab properly. The government put down the demonstrations with brutal violence, killing more than 500 protesters, including teenagers and girls, and arresting tens of thousands.
In the past few weeks, as the anniversary of Amini’s death approached, the government launched a new wave of crackdowns, arresting dozens of activists, dissidents, journalists and family members of people killed in protests last year.
On Tuesday, Raisi called Western reporting on those events “fake” and “distorted,” and claimed the protests were part of an “immediate and psychological war” being waged by the West against Iranians.