(Bloomberg) -- President Hassan Rouhani used his time on the United Nations stage to present Iran as open for business with the implementation of a nuclear agreement, while also ensuring he delivered a message tough enough to mollify hardliners back home ahead of next year’s presidential elections.
The annual gathering of leaders used to be where the Islamic Republic was denounced as a pariah by Western powers. But with a deal on Iran’s nuclear arsenal under his belt, Rouhani delivered a low-key address at the UN General Assembly, touting the country’s five percent economic growth and investment opportunities.
"The economy of Iran is one of the most secure and most profitable investment destinations in the region,” Rouhani said. Based on analyst expectations, “Iran is enjoying one the highest growth rates among the oil-producing countries.”
With elections just eight months away, critics blame Rouhani for not delivering on a promise that the nuclear deal would usher in a new era of prosperity. While Rouhani’s team celebrated news that Boeing Co. received U.S. approval to sell the first jetliners to Iran in almost 40 years, he seized on the chance to criticize a U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow Iranian assets to be seized to pay families of victims of terrorism.
“This experience demonstrated that the Zionist pressure groups could go as far as having the U.S. Congress pass indefensible legislation forcing the highest American judicial institution to violate peremptory norms of international law,” he said.
Rouhani also, unsurprisingly, had harsh words for its rival Islamic regional power, Saudi Arabia, urging the kingdom to stop its bombing of Yemen and support for Sunni extremists. Relations between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are at a low point as the two are on different sides of the Syrian war, and in Yemen where Iran backs Houthis who drove the government into exile, triggering an intervention by Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf nations.
“If the Saudi government is serious about its vision for development and regional security, it must cease and desist from divisive policies, spread of hate ideology, and trampling upon the rights of neighbors,” Rouhani said. Saudi Arabia must also “accept its responsibility for the protection of the lives and dignity of pilgrims.”