NEW YORK (EJP) --- US President Barack Obama arrived in New York ahead of his planned address to the UN General Assembly Tuesday night, as sources close to him warned he would deliver the tough rhetoric on Iran increasingly demanded by Israel.
Obama has increasingly appeared to take a contrasting stance to Israel Premier Benjamin Netanyahu who has called for “clear red lines” to be drawn on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
Ahead of his speech, White House spokesman Jay Carney described the platform in front of the 137 UN member states an opportunity “to underscore that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon”.
His speech is unlikely to be attended by the Israeli delegation, as it coincides with the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).
Netanyahu is not expected to arrive in New York for the assembly until after the fast on Thursday, when both he and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are due to address delegates.
Abbas is widely expected to appeal for non-member observer status for the Palestinian Authority.
Obama has opted for highly-publicised television appearances in the lead-up to the General Assembly, delegating key one-on-one meetings with foreign counterparts from highly sensitive states such as Egypt, Libya and Pakistan to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instead, with his campaign team insisting this was in the interests of impartiality.
His address comes a day after Iranian President Mahmoud addressed a high level “rule of law” meeting, which sparked a walk-out in protest from the Israel envoy to the UN, as the Islamist president immediately contravened UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to avoid “incendiary rhetoric” and described calls to action on Iran from Israel as “a lot of noise to raise stakes in order to save themselves”, cautioning that “Iran is also a very well-recognised country and her defensive powers are very clear”.
In an interview with the Washington Post Sunday, Ahmadinejad rejected the threat of military action by Israel, insisting that “we, generally speaking, do not take very seriously the issue of the Zionists and possible dangers emanating from them”.
He also appeared to redirect blame on the US, insisting “we have always been ready” to negotiate, “but experience has shown that important and key decisions are not made in the US leading up to national elections” (the US presidential elections on November 6).
Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric clashed with the US Treasury Department’s official declaration Monday that Iran’s state oil company, currently the subject of international sanctions from the US and the EU, is linked to its Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
The announcement, the result of a Congress-commissioned enquiry, paved the way for US sanctions to extend their reach from US companies to foreign banks trading with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the world’s third largest exporter.
In a statement, leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman said: “Oil transactions with NIOC directly support the IRGC’s role in Iran’s nuclear-weapons program and its support for terrorism”.
Israel has repeatedly accused Lebanese shiite militia group Hezbollah, which is banned by the US, although not the EU, of being a proxy for the Iranian regime.
The IRGC itself has been accused of numerous acts of terrorism worldwide, primarily against Israeli targets, and has been held responsible for recent attacks in India, Georgia and Thailand.
According to the US Treasury, The Revolutionary Guards has made a concerted effort to market Iranian oil to foreign entities to evade western sanctions, in particular the EU sanctions that came into force in July, crippling the Iranian economy. Last week a senior Iranian army official told Dubai-based Al Arabiya that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini had instructed the Revolutionary Guards to stop its operations around the world, in order to focus its efforts on countries in the region, in expectation of an imminent Israeli strike.
Carney, further hinted that Obama may not send Iran the absolute ultimatum that Netanyahu and Israel have to date demanded, when he said he “would expect the president to address the recent unrest in the Muslim world and the broader context of the democratic transitions of the Arab world”, which have seen many countries in the region take a staunchly anti-American stance, particularly in light of recent protests over US links to the Islamophobic film that led to the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya and three consulate staff, as well as similar attacks on embassies in Egypt and Yemen.