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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Revealed: Trump talks tough on Tehran as he announces his national security strategy

The US president is pledging to confront “the danger posed by the dictatorship in Iran, which those determined to pursue a flawed nuclear deal had neglected”

The Trump strategy calls China and Russia “strategic competitors” . AP Photo/Evan Vucci
The Trump strategy calls China and Russia “strategic competitors” . AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The Trump government has released its released its national security strategy in which it calls China a “strategic competitor”, singles out jihadist terrorism, escalates its policy against Iran and omits climate change as a threat.

The strategy, a document every US president must provide, was released on Monday with Mr Trump expected to present it in a speech at the Ronald Reagan building last night.

The 70-page document was released ahead of schedule, and was put together by departing deputy national security adviser Dina Habib Powell and senior director at the national security council, Nadia Schadlow.

The paper has tough talk for Tehran, pledging to confront “the danger posed by the dictatorship in Iran, which those determined to pursue a flawed nuclear deal had neglected”.

It accuses Tehran of trying “to destabilise regions, threaten Americans and our allies, and brutalise their own people”.

“Iran supports terrorist groups and openly calls for our destruction,” it says, laying the ground to counter Tehran’s ballistic missile activities and those of “Iranian-backed groups such as Lebanese Hizbollah”.

The document said Washington sought a “Middle East that is not a safe haven or breeding ground for jihadist terrorists, not dominated by any power hostile to the US, and that contributes to a stable global energy market”.

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“For years, the interconnected problems of Iranian expansion, state collapse, jihadist ideology, socio-economic stagnation and regional rivalries have convulsed the Middle East,” it said.

“Some of our partners are working together to reject radical ideologies, and key leaders are calling for a rejection of Islamist extremism and violence. Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems.

“We remain committed to helping our partners achieve a stable and prosperous region, including through a strong and integrated GCC. We will strengthen our long-term strategic partnership with Iraq as an independent state.

“We will seek a settlement to the Syrian civil war that sets the conditions for refugees to return home and rebuild their lives in safe. We will work with partners to deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon and neutralise Iranian malign influence.

“We remain committed to helping facilitate a comprehensive peace agreement that is acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.”

A senior US official said Mr Trump made the decision on the spot to approve the document less than 12 months into his term. His predecessors took more than a year or even 20 months to present theirs.

“The US has not been competing as it should,” the ­official said.

The Trump strategy calls China and Russia “strategic competitors” and uses the phrase Jihadist terrorism instead of violent extremism or just terrorism, as used during the Obama presidency.

The strategy pledges to “pursue threats to their source, so that jihadist terrorists are stopped before they ever reach our borders”.

The document identifies Tehran and Pyongyang as “rogue regimes” and seeks to work with regional partners and Europeans to counter “Russian subversion and aggression, and the threats posed by North Korea and Iran”.

It says that “the US is deploying a layered missile defense system focused on North Korea and Iran to defend our homeland against missile attacks”.

But it says that “enhanced missile defence will not undermine strategic stability or disrupt long-standing strategic relationships with Russia or China”.

A senior US official said that relations with Russia were no longer at an all-time low but “lot of work needs to be done” for improvement.

The official said that Washington’s tactics in Northern Iraq made it harder for Tehran to establish a land bridge through Iraq and Syria, and into Lebanon.

Unlike Mr Trump’s campaign where he called Nato obsolete, the document emphasises the need to “work with Nato to improve its integrated air and missile defense capabilities to counter existing and projected ballistic and cruise missile threats, particularly from Iran”.

The document is the first to be released by the Trump team and will serve as a strategic guideline to US policy until the next administration.

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