The Guardian | Published – 05 Januar 2018
Washington demands emergency meeting to call for tough line against Tehran – which Moscow says is an American attempt to undermine Iran’s sovereignty
Pro-government demonstrations in Tehran. The Iranian regime has accused the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Israel of stoking what they say are riots. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA
Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
American efforts to win UN security council backing for a tough line against the Iranian leadership in the wake of this week’s protests came unstuck after Russia accused Washington of seeking to undermine Iranian sovereignty by convening an emergency UN session on Friday.
The Russians demanded a closed session of the security council – before the open session wanted by the US – at which Russia will attack the American misuse of the UN to interfere in the sovereignty of Iran.
With protests inside Iran reportedly receding, the Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said he saw no role for the UN on the issue. He said such a meeting would be “harmful and destructive”. A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said that no such meetings were called when US police cracked down on the Occupy Wall Street movement or the Ferguson protests.
Last month, the US was isolated at the UN when it was left with virtually no support for its call for Jerusalem to be recognised as the capital of Israel.
Ryabkov also sided with the Iranian regime by saying allegations that the protests had been fuelled by foreign powers “were not groundless”. He said the security council meeting represented an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Iran.
The Iranian regime has itself accused CIA officials, Saudi Arabia and Israel of stoking what they describe as riots.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, has drawn comparisons between the Iranian unrest and the Syrian uprising in 2011 by saying: “The world has witnessed the horrors that have taken place in Syria, that began with a murderous regime denying its people’s right to peacefully protest.”
The US is planning to impose further sanctions on individual regime figures if it can show they are leading the crackdown on protesters. Washington has already imposed sanctions against five Iranian firms alleged to have been working on what the US said was an illegal ballistic missile programme.
Twenty-one people have died and hundreds have been arrested since 28 December as protests over economic woes turned against the Iranian leaders, with attacks on government buildings and police stations.
Iranian state TV reported on Friday that tens of thousands of government supporters were on the streets, backing the clerical establishment and claiming the US had generated the largest anti-government protests in nearly a decade. Tehran’s Friday prayer leaders called on authorities to deal “firmly” with those responsible for igniting the protests. Social media claimed the protests had continued on Thursday.
The government has reversed some of its austerity plans.
European countries are fearful that Trump’s bellicose rhetoric simply plays into the hands of Iranian hardliners by making it easier to portray the demonstrators as the dupes or agents of Washington. European leaders also fear Trump will use the Tehran crackdown to argue that Congress should not renew the Iranian nuclear deal, something they wish to protect.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, was unequivocal in his support for the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015. He said: “We cannot be the guarantors of the international order and multilateralism, we cannot be founders and members of the United Nations security council, and forget that signed agreements must be respected.”