Trump says Iran ‘funds’ Middle East slaughter and urges regime’s isolation
UN General Assembly 2018: No other country faced as much criticism in his speech on Tuesday
US President Donald Trump singled out Iran for harsh criticism on Tuesday in his second speech to the United Nations General Assembly, accusing it of “funding havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen” and calling on the world to isolate the country’s “corrupt dictatorship”.
Hours after tweeting that he would not meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani even though he was probably an “absolutely lovely man,” the American leader launched a scathing criticism of Tehran and its spreading of “mayhem” across the Middle East and around the world.
No other country faced as much criticism in his speech. He vowed to continue Iran’s isolation through crippling sanctions that he is reinstating after pulling out of the landmark nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers in 2015.
Mr Trump, arriving late to his second UNGA speech, used the opportunity to amplify his “America First” agenda, reject globalism, dismiss the International Criminal Court, the and UN Human Rights body, while emphasising US sovereignty and “standing up for America and for the American people”.
The speech, which started with laughter from the audience over Mr Trump’s claim that his administration “has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country”, took a more bombastic turn thereafter.
Mr Trump moved to criticising a series of countries including China, Iran, Germany, and Venezuela. His harshest lines were aimed at Iran, accused its government of sowing ”chaos, death and destruction” and “funding havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen”.
"They do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran's leaders plunder the nation's resources to enrich themselves and spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond” Mr Trump said.
He said Iranian leaders had embezzled “billions of dollars from Iran’s treasury, seized valuable portions of the economy, and looted the people’s religious endowments, all to line their own pockets and send their proxies to wage war” across the region.
“Not good,” Mr Trump said.
His attack came after he left the door open to a possible meeting with the Iranian leader in the future.
“Despite requests, I have no plans to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Maybe someday in the future,” Mr Trump tweeted.
Asked by reporters about the potential of such a meeting, Mr Trump said Iran would have to “change its tune” first. But he said there was a chance for a similar track of diplomacy like the one he has pursued with North Korea. He met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at a Singapore summit in June.
On the Middle East, Mr Trump praised Saudi Arabia “where King Salman and Crown Prince are pursuing bold new reforms”. But he criticised OPEC and threatened with punitive measures if oil prices remain that high.
"OPEC and OPEC nations are as usual ripping off the rest of the world, and I don't like it. Nobody should like it,” he said. “We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices. Not good.”
As Congress considers legislation targeting OPEC, Mr Trump threatened the organisation. “We are not going to put up with it, these horrible prices, much longer,” he said.
Oil prices have reached a $82 high, and there are fears that Mr Trump’s second round of sanctions on Iran’s oil market in November will drive the price to $100, a few days before the US midterm elections.
On Syria, Mr Trump lamented the ongoing tragedy, and reiterated his administration’s willingness to “respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime”.
The speech did not reveal any new US plan for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but took credit for moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“The United States is committed to a future of peace and stability in the region, including peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That aim is advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts,” Mr Trump said.
Palestinian officials were quick to denounce the US President’s approach. Senior PLO member Hanan Ashrawi called it “superficial defence of unilateralism, isolationism & plain bullying.”
“He launched arrogant attack on global system from its podium boasted of illegally moving embassy to Jerusalem & leaving HR Council! Condescending ignorance: double flaws,” she wrote on Twitter.
North Korean leader Kim took most of the praise in Mr Trump’s speech.
"I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work remains to be done," Mr Trump said.
“The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction, nuclear testing has stopped,” but “the sanctions will stay in place until denuclearisation occurs”, he told the UNGA.
He said the ICC has “no legitimacy and no authority”, and criticised Germany, saying that it “will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course”.
Mr Trump will chair a Security council meeting on non-proliferation tomorrow ahead of leaving New York on Thursday.
Updated: September 25, 2018 09:56 PM