Trump Urges 'All Nations To Isolate' Iran, Tehran Accuses U.S. Of 'Economic Terrorism'
RFE/RL September 25, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump has called at the United Nations General Assembly for "all nations to isolate" the Iranian government for as long as its leadership continues policies of "aggression" in the Middle East and beyond.
But Iranian President Hassan Rohani responded to Trump's remarks by depicting the Trump administration as a violator of its international obligations and a bully that is pressuring other countries to follow Washington's lead and withdraw from Tehran's 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.
Trump on September 25 told the UN General Assembly: "Iran's leaders sell chaos, death, and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran's leaders plunder the nation's resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond."
Trump told the General Assembly: "We cannot allow the world's leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet's most dangerous weapons. We cannot allow a regime that chants 'death to America,' and that threatens Israel with annihilation, to possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on earth. Just can't do it. We ask all nations to isolate Iran's regime as long as its aggression continues, and we ask all nations to support Iran's people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny."
Hours later, Rohani responded by telling the General Assembly that Washington's withdrawal from the nuclear accord and its "unlawful unilateral sanctions" constituted a form of "economic terrorism."
"It is unfortunate that we are witnessing rulers in the world who think they can secure their interests better, or at least in the short-term ride public sentiments and gain popular support, through the fomenting of extremists, nationalism, and racism and through xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition as well as through the trampling of global rules and undermining international institutions," Rohani said.
"Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength. Rather, it is a symptom of the weakness of intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world," he said.
"The United Nations should not allow its decisions to fall victim to the domestic election and propaganda games of some of its members and should not allow any member states to dodge the execution of its international commitments."
Trump's criticism of Iran came in the midst of a speech that largely focused on his "America First" foreign policy, and Washington's refusal to "surrender America's sovereignty to an unelected and unaccountable global governance."
Shortly after Trump finished his speech, the presidents of two NATO countries -- Turkey and France -- implicitly criticized Trump's call to isolate Iran's government.
"None of us can remain silent to the arbitrary cancellation of commercial agreements, the spreading prevalence of protectionism, and the use of economic sanctions as weapons," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the General Assembly.
French President Emmanuel Macron told the General Assembly that "dialogue and multilateralism" was needed on Iran -- a thinly veiled response to Trump's push for tough, U.S.-led sanctions.
"What will bring a real solution to the situation in Iran and what has already stabilized it? The law of the strongest? Pressure from only one side? No!" Macron said.
"We know that Iran was on a nuclear military path but what stopped it? The 2015 Vienna accord," Macron said. "Today we should not aggravate regional tensions but rather through dialogue and multilateralism pursue a broader agenda that allows us to address all the concerns caused by Iranian policies -- nuclear, ballistic, regional."
Trump praised Poland for working to make itself independent from Russian energy supplies and said that "Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course" on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
Trump also said the International Criminal Court (ICC) lacked any legitimacy and violated "all principles of justice."
"As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority," Trump said. "The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America's sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy."
On Syria's war, Trump warned that "the United States will respond if chemical weapons are deployed" by President Bashar al-Assad's forces. He said the world's "shared goals" on Syria must be de-escalation of the conflict along with a political solution that is "based on the will of the Syrian people."
He also accused the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) "and OPEC nations" of "ripping off" the world by raising prices and said member states that receive military support from the United States will have to start sharing the cost of that defense.
Trump said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was heading an initiative to reevaluate U.S. foreign assistance.
"We are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends," Trump told the UN gathering.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley had said ahead of Trump's speech that he planned to address "the fact that we had to take on the Russian incident" in which former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury in March.
But Trump made no mention of the Novichok attack in his UN speech.
Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for "encouraging measures" since the two met in Singapore in June for a summit, thanking Kim for "his courage and steps he has taken" toward reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula.
But he said "much work needs to be done" by North Korea and that U.S. sanctions "will remain in place until denuclearization occurs."
Guterres: 'Trust Deficit'
Trump's speech to the General Assembly came after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the weeklong event on September 25 by warning that the world was "suffering from a bad case of trust-deficit disorder."
"People are feeling troubled and insecure and trust is at a breaking point -- trust in national institutions, trust among states, trust in the rules-based world order," Guterres told the General Assembly.
"Within countries, people are losing faith in political establishments," Guterres said. "Polarization is on the rise and populism is on the march. Among countries, cooperation is less certain and more difficult and divisions in our Security Council are stark."
Urging world leaders to counteract unilateralism and rejuvenate international cooperation, Guterres sounded an alarm on issues ranging from global climate change, a growing potential for nuclear conflict, the need for all people to benefit from new technologies, and the necessity to safeguard against dangers ranging from "malicious acts in cyberspace to the weaponization of artificial intelligence."
"Today, world order is increasingly chaotic," Guterres warned. "Power relations are less clear and universal values are being eroded. Democratic principles are under siege and the rule of law is being undermined."
Guterres's grim depiction of the state of the world was the first of many speeches scheduled during the General Assembly session, which runs through October 1.
Hours before the session was set to begin, Trump tweeted that he had no plans to meet with Rohani on the sidelines of the gathering "despite requests" to do so.
Rohani said earlier that as a precondition for any dialogue, Trump must repair the damage done when he unilaterally withdrew the United States from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
"That bridge must be rebuilt," Rohani told the U.S.-based NBC news ahead of his speech.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech on September 25 is expected to focus mainly on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib.
Erdogan also was expected to call on the international community to share responsibility for the refugee crisis and other challenges posed by conflicts in the region.
Also due to address the General Assembly on September 25 are Kyrgyz President Sooranbai Jeenbekov; Bakir Izetbegovic, the chairman of Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite presidency; and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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