Dramatic developments in the Middle East over the last few weeks are likely to be a focal point for world leaders as they assemble in New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly. President Donald Trump is expected to use his opening speech at the General Assembly to attack Iran for its apparent role in the strike on the Saudi oil facility at Abqaiq. Whereas the talk just weeks ago had been about the possibility of a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York, Trump’s challenge as the General Assembly opens will be to rally the global community behind his hardline stance.

Rouhani will get his opportunity to respond the next day. But, as The New York Times has reported, sympathy for Iran has faded as it has made a series of increasingly provocative moves culminating in the Abqaiq attack in response to the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign. Perhaps in a gesture meant to ease international criticism of the Iranian regime, Tehran announced that it will release the UK oil tanker, Stena Impero, seized in July in retaliation for a British seizure of an Iranian tanker in the Mediterranean.

Absent from this year’s General Assembly opening session will be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently locked in a political crisis at home as the Israeli electorate returned a split decision in voting on Sept. 17. Netanyahu is fighting for his personal as well as his political life, as a failure to secure the prime minister’s seat will almost certainly lead to his trial on corruption charges and potentially a prison term.

Also absent from New York this year is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the Saudi delegation will be led by figurehead Foreign Minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz al-Assaf.


Amb. (ret.) Gerald Feierstein is MEI’s senior vice president.

Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images


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