US President Donald Trump on Wednesday doubled down on his blistering criticism of Iran, accusing the regime of stepping up its aggression after signing a nuclear accord in 2015 and saying Tehran took advantage of the lifting of sanctions to fund a missile program and support terrorism.
“In the years since the deal was signed, Iran’s aggression only increased,” Trump said as he chaired a meeting of the UN Security Council to address the countering of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
“The regime used new funds from the deal to support terrorism, build nuclear capable missiles, and foment chaos,” he said.
Trump pulled the United States out of the internationally brokered accord in May, although European allies and Iran have pledged their continued commitment to the agreement, which lifted sanctions in return for curbs in Tehran’s nuclear program.
The US has been steadily reimposing sanctions against Iran in recent months and Trump said more were on the way.
Seated at the center of an arc-shaped table, he said that a government with Iran’s track record “must never be allowed to obtain” a nuclear weapon.
The president also said Iran “is the world’s leading sponsor of terror,” and urged the international community to unite against the Tehran regime.
“I ask all members of the Security Council to work with the United States to ensure the Iranian regime changes its behavior and never acquires a nuclear bomb,” he said.
At the same time, he thanked Iran, Russia, and Syria for slowing their attack on Idlib province in Syria. Last week, Russia and Turkey reached a deal to avert an offensive against the last major rebel-held stronghold in Syria.
It was Trump’s first experience leading a session of the UN’s most powerful body, where the US currently holds the rotating presidency.
The council is populated by five permanent members — the US, China, Russia, Britain, and France — and 10 other member states that occupy a council seat for two-year terms. Iran is not among them.
On Tuesday, during an unabashedly “America First” speech, Trump said Iranian leaders “sow chaos, death, and destruction” and “spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.” His national security adviser, John Bolton, later warned that there would be “hell to pay” if Tehran crossed the US, its allies or their partners.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to Trump’s speech by accusing the administration of violating the rules of international law and “state obligations” in withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US signed with Iran along with five other major powers.
Trump also told the council that it can expect “very good news” in the coming months and years from North Korea after his landmark summit with the young strongman Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June.
“Kim Jong Un, a man I have gotten to know and like, wants peace and prosperity for North Korea,” Trump said.
“Many things are happening behind the scenes away from the media which nobody knows, but they are happening nevertheless and they are happening in a very positive way.”
But Trump also called for the enforcement of sanctions, which the US has spent years building through the Security Council in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.
“Unfortunately, to ensure this progress continues, we must enforce existing UN Security Council resolutions until denuclearization occurs,” Trump said, reading from a prepared text.
“However, we have detected that some nations are already violating these UN sanctions. This includes illegal ship-to-ship transfers which must end immediately,” he said. “The safety of the Korean peninsula, the region, and the world depends on full compliance.”
Trump also accused China of working against his Republican Party in the upcoming midterm elections, saying Beijing wanted to see him suffer an electoral blow because of his hard line on trade.
“Regrettably we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration,” he charged. “They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.”