The US cannot “impose negotiations or war” on Iran, the country’s President Hassan Rouhani told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday via video link, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ruling out the possibility of a thaw in Iran-US relations, Rouhani in his pre-recorded speech said future US governments will “eventually surrender before the resilience” of the Iranian people.

“No administration in the history has undone 13 years of international negotiations without rationale and dishonored UN resolutions,” Rouhani said, referring to President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw the US from the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Life is hard under sanctions, but it is harder without independence,” Rouhani said, virtually ruling out the possibility of “negotiations” until the US returns to the 2015 deal.

The 75th UN General Assembly comes amidst heightened tensions between Iran and the US, after the US unilaterally moved to reinstate all UN sanctions on Iran, despite other members of the UN Security Council opposing the move.

Earlier in the day, in his address Trump repeated his justification for leaving the JCPOA, claiming it was “terrible.” 

Iran has flourished

Rouhani, in his remarks, called the deal “one of the biggest accomplishments in the history of global diplomacy” and said his country had remained “faithful” to it.

“They falsely accuse us and impose sanctions, without any basis, under the pretext of nuclear proliferation,” Rouhani said, referring to claims that Iran is seeking to build an atomic bomb.

Trump’s claims while leaving the deal that Iran had violated it generally found a cool response.

Playing down the impact of US sanctions on his country, Rouhani said Iran has resisted America’s “maximum pressure” campaign and “flourished and advanced” as a “pivot of peace and stability.”

Rouhani, whose term in office ends next year, has been struggling to deal with domestic economic issues, with fresh spikes in virus cases, rising inflation, and a tumbling currency.

He has tried to deflect criticism by blaming the US sanctions for economic problems and the struggle to contain the virus’ spread.

Rouhani said the “era of dominance and hegemony” is over and it is time to “stand up against bullying,” in a veiled attack on the Trump administration.

“Our children deserve better,” he said. “Now is the time for the right choice.”

New showdown?

There has been speculation that the Trump administration is seeking a confrontation with Iran to boost his chances of re-election in November.

There are also reports that his Democratic rival Joe Biden might seek to resurrect the deal, which was facilitated by his Democratic colleague Barack Obama in 2015. However, in Iran, opinion over re-negotiating the deal is divided.

Tensions between the two sides have escalated recently, especially after the UN Security Council refused a US demand to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran, which ends in October after more than a decade.

While the US has moved alone to trigger the snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran, including the arms ban, Iran has dismissed the move and showed readiness to resume arms trade in October.

Experts believe the issue of arms trade could push the two sides to the brink of confrontation in the runup to the Nov. 3 US elections.

Statements from top Iranian political and military officials in recent weeks imply that Iran is prepared for any eventuality, including a short-term war.

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