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Trump attacks Iranian leaders, defends exit from nuclear deal

Sep 25 2018 21:13
Toluse Olorunnipa

US President Donald Trump called on the rest of the world to isolate Iran and said a US campaign of “economic pressure” would turn back the Islamic Republic’s aggression, in his second address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump declared in his speech that America, under his leadership, had achieved new economic and military heights. While he ran for office on a promise to “Make America Great Again,” he said that his accomplishments would benefit the world.

“We’re standing up for America and the American people, and we’re also standing up for the world,” he said.

Iran took the place of North Korea as the principal antagonist in Trump’s second address to the General Assembly. Trump said that while he had replaced “the specter of conflict” with North Korea “with a bold and new push for peace,” tensions with Iran have increased since the 2015 nuclear deal signed by former President Barack Obama.

“We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues,” Trump said.

The country’s regime used proceeds from the accord to increase its military budget 40% and strengthen the repression of its people, Trump said, calling the deal “a windfall” for the country’s leaders.

“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump said. “Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem in the Middle East and far beyond.”

After threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea in his UN speech last year, Trump was not as bellicose toward Tehran. “The United States has launched a campaign of economic pressure to deny the regime funds it needs to advance its bloody agenda,” he said.

But Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, issued a clear threat to Iran.

“If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay,” Bolton said in excerpts the White House released in advance of a speech the Trump adviser is scheduled to make Tuesday.

‘Principled Realism’

Trump began by boasting of his administration’s accomplishments and the strength of the US economy since his election, echoing the campaign speeches he delivers at rallies across the country. The remarks prompted laughter from the audience.

“Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” Trump said.

Trump described a US foreign policy he called “principled realism” that would at times reject conventional thinking about international relations. He said Us foreign aid would go only “to those who respect us and who are, frankly, are our friends.”

“We will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again,” he said.

He singled out China for “abuse” in its trade practices and said countries in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries “are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world. We defend many of these nations for nothing,” he complained.

“We are not going to put up with it, these horrible processes, much longer,” he said. The United States is the largest provider of foreign aid, “but few give anything to us. That is why we are taking a hard look at foreign assistance.”

Meeting Speculation

Before his speech, Trump tamped down any speculation of a meeting with Iran’s leader. “Despite requests, I have no plans to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Maybe someday in the future,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I am sure he is an absolutely lovely man!”

As he entered the UN, he told reporters: “We look forward to having a great relationship with Iran but it won’t happen now.”

Iranian officials say they haven’t sought a meeting with Trump and wouldn’t agree to one. Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the idea of a meeting a “frenetic dream” of Trump and his top officials that “will never turn reality,” according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Trump’s speech repeated last year’s theme of “sovereignty’’ as a paramount virtue for nations.

“The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship,” Trump said. “We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”

READUS-China trade war draws rebuke from world leaders at UN event

Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord while signing an agreement in principle with North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. His “maximum pressure’’ moniker - previously describing a series of global sanctions against North Korea - has now been fitted to the administration’s approach to Iran.

Bolton said Monday that more sanctions against Iran are ready. And in his speech Tuesday, he called the nuclear deal “the worst diplomatic debacle in American history.”

“The days of impunity for Tehran and its enablers are over,” Bolton said. “The murderous regime and its supporters will face significant consequences if they do not change their behavior. Let my message today be clear: We are watching, and we will come after you.”

‘Strong Words’

On Wednesday, Trump will host a UN Security Council session focused on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by Iran and other countries.

“You can bet the president will have well-deserved strong words for the Iranian regime, which is among the worst of violators of UN Security Council resolutions, if not the absolute worst in the world,’’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Monday.

Iran’s Rouhani said in an interview with NBC News on Monday that Trump’s pressure campaign would not bring his government to the negotiating table. The US would have to first re-join the nuclear accord negotiated by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, he said.

“That bridge must be rebuilt,” he said. Meanwhile, Iran can withstand U.S. sanctions, he said, calling the Trump administration’s threats to choke off his country’s oil exports an “empty promise.”

“The United States is not capable of bringing our oil exports to zero,” Rouhani told NBC.

In addition to Trump’s speech and the Security Council session, Bolton and Pompeo will address an event Tuesday afternoon organized by a group called United Against a Nuclear Iran. The State Department will host an event Friday morning to “call for supporting human rights in Iran” featuring former Iranian political prisoners and several Trump administration officials.

Less Bellicose

Trump’s criticism of Iran wasn’t as abrasive as his 2017 UN address, when he branded North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man’’ and threatened to annihilate the country.

Since that speech, Trump has claimed credit for an easing of tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, which hasn’t tested ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons since late last year. Trump and Kim have both said that they’re eager for a second summit.

Trump spent much of the speech laying out his “America First’’ world view, including his assertion that all world leaders should put their countries first as sovereign nations. He has framed his decision to pull out of the Iran deal -- which retains the support of several U.S. allies and the imprimatur of a UN Security Council resolution -- as an issue of U.S. sovereignty.

In the past year, he has moved to limit the U.S. role in multilateral institutions, pulling the country from the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He’s levied tariffs on several U.S. trading partners, threatened to withdraw from the World Trade Organization and warned the International Criminal Court that its officials would be sanctioned if it prosecutes Americans.

Trump said the US won’t return to the Human Rights Council “until real reform is enacted.”

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donald trump  |  iran  |  us  |  trade
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