New York Times foreign desk reporter Rick Gladstone’s report from the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday made the pitiful claim that President Trump’s “angry ranting” in his speech had made Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani look good: “Critics Fear Jabs at Iran May Backfire On President.”
President Trump’s bombastic attacks on Iran over the nuclear deal may have created an unanticipated outcome: sympathy for the Iranian government.
Disarmament advocates and other critics of Mr. Trump’s approach to Iran say that while his threats to renounce the accord may sit well with conservative allies, they also risk damaging the credibility of the United States.
Some say the contrast between Mr. Trump’s belligerent-sounding General Assembly speech on Tuesday, and the more measured address by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Wednesday, had helped give Iran an unexpected edge: the image of reasonableness in the face of an adversary’s angry ranting.
“The bombast makes Trump look like a predator, circling,” said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy in Washington who has followed the ups and downs of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.
Gladstone stuck up for the dubious deal President Obama made with the terrorist sponsoring state.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear-monitoring arm of the United Nations, has repeatedly found Iran in compliance with the agreement, which eased economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for its verifiable guarantees of peaceful nuclear work.
While Mr. Trump and his United Nations ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, have assailed Iran, they have presented nothing concrete that suggests the Iranians are violating the agreement.
For Mr. Rouhani, who described Mr. Trump’s depiction of Iran as an insult that warranted an apology, there was ample opportunity to present his side of the story on Wednesday, in his speech and at a news conference.
And Gladstone dind't hestitate to give President Rouhani the floor:
It was in many ways the diametrical opposite of Mr. Trump’s version. Iran is not meddling in the Middle East, he said, it is helping neighbors who ask for help. Iran is not sponsoring terrorism, he said, but fighting it. Iran’s missiles are not meant to attack but to defend.
In an indirect but pointed swipe at Mr. Trump’s administration, he also said “it will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by ‘rogue’ newcomers to the world of politics: the world will have lost a great opportunity.”
Mr. Trump’s portrayal of Iran as a fomenter of Middle East conflict, Mr. Rouhani said, was misplaced, given America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and other military operations in the area.
Gladstone let Rouhani off the hook from fact-checking.
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While the Iranian president’s version of all the facts may be in dispute, his tone was moderate, especially compared with the provocative performances by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he succeeded four years ago.
Gladstone found it embarrassing that Trump would be met with hostility by a group with a high percentage of anti-Israel dictators.
Mr. Rouhani’s tone also may have given him an advantage when compared with that of Mr. Trump, who was met largely with stony silence in the General Assembly hall with his criticism of Iran on Wednesday, categorizing it as a rogue state akin to North Korea.
Some disarmament experts said Mr. Rouhani was perfectly within his rights to insist that the nuclear agreement could not be renegotiated, even if it had flaws. That could further complicate Mr. Trump’s challenges with Iran.
In a July 2012 report, Gladstone described Yassir Arafat, terrorist leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as “a father figure of Palestinian nationalism.”