WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump urged the international community to isolate Iran on Tuesday, during a combative address before the United Nations General Assembly, in which he accused the Tehran regime of sowing “death and destruction.”
Ahead of the administration’s plans to reimpose harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic on November 5, which could also include sanctioning America’s European allies that do business with Tehran, the president denounced the Iranian regime’s bellicose activities in the region as indicating the need for a tougher posture.
“We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” Trump said, citing Iran’s “threatening Israel with annihilation” and chants of “death to America.”
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” he added. “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.”
In May, Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with Iran, which was forged under his predecessor, Barack Obama. The administration scolded the deal for its sunset clauses that allow certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to expire, it’s failure to prevent Iranian ballistic missile testing, and the partial access it provides for inspectors into Iran’s military sites.
Trump’s pull-out from the deal was met with intense criticism from world leaders, especially those of the other countries — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — that brokered the accord.
“So many countries supported my decision to withdraw the US from the horrible 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose nuclear sanctions,” Trump said Tuesday. “The Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders. In the year since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget grew nearly 40 percent.”
He also cited the support of several Middle East nations for exiting the landmark pact, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. “Iran’s neighbors have paid a heavy toll for [Iran’s] agenda of aggression and expansion,” he said.
In unscripted remarks to reporters before his talk, Trump said of Iran and its leaders: “I’m not meeting with them until they change their tune. It will happen. I believe they have no choice. We look forward to having a great relationship with Iran, but it won’t happen now.”
Another point of international controversy Trump addressed in his speech was his efforts to clinch the long-coveted Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
In that context, he championed his decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.
“The United States is committed to a future of peace and stability in the region, including peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” Trump told the world body. “That aim is advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts.”
Taking a shot at analysts who worried the move would harm US-Palestinian relations, make the conditions for resumed negotiations impossible, and possibly instigate violence, Trump derided the “so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years time and time again.”
Trump, who has slashed US funding to the Palestinian Authority since PA President Mahmoud Abbas began boycotting his administration over its Jerusalem recognition, said of future foreign aid: “Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”
Israel, toward the end of his address, was one of a few countries on which he showered individual praise. “There is Israel proudly celebrating its 70th anniversary as a thriving democracy in the holy land,” he said.
Since he announced his Jerusalem decision, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been at a stalemate, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refusing to meet with administration officials, whom he claims abandoned their role as honest brokers and sided with Israel.
Trump’s remarks came with his peace team — led by son-in-law Jared Kushner and envoy Jason Greenblatt — ostensibly planning to release their proposal for a solution to the conflict in the near future.
Israel responded to Trump’s speech with instant approval. Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said in a statement that “the president proves again that the US is on the right side of history.”
“While standing on the side of Israel in the struggle for stability in the Middle East, the United States leads the United Nations into a new era that ends its obsession with Israel, and pushes back against the Iranian regime,” he added.
Trump’s remarks, much of which were dedicated to isolationist rhetoric denigrating immigration and international institutions, were not all met with plaudits in real time. At the very beginning of his speech, the US leader, with signature braggadocio, said his administration had accomplished almost more than any other in the history of his country. Some in the audience responded with mocking laughter.
“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” he said. “America’s — so true…,” he continued, as the laughter broke out. “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay,” he continued, to laughter and applause.
He went on to lash out at the OPEC oil cartel, China’s trade policies and the International Criminal Court, which he vowed the United States would never accept.
Trump robustly attacked the “globalist” view of the world — shared by many at the UN and on the political left in the US — and vowed: “America will never apologize for protecting its citizens.”
He said that the UN-backed International Criminal Court has “no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority.”
His national security adviser John Bolton earlier went so far as to threaten to prosecute judges from the court in The Hague if they take up accusations against US forces in Afghanistan.
“We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy. America is governed by Americans,” Trump said.
Amid a growing trade war with China, Trump said that the commercial imbalance with the Asian power “cannot be tolerated” and reserved harsh words for OPEC, the global oil cartel that includes both US allies and foes.
“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 also said he had instructed his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to take a “hard look” at US foreign assistance, and determine what is working and what is not working and whether countries that receive US aid “have our interests at heart.”
Agencies contributed to this report.