Trump takes aim at Iran in defiant UN speech

President Trump on Tuesday took aim at Iran in a defiant address to the United Nations, calling on world leaders to join the U.S. in isolating Tehran over its “aggression.” 

Trump used a large portion of his address to tout his administration’s plans to launch a “campaign of economic pressure” aimed at starving Iran of money it would use “to advance its bloody agenda” in the Middle East and beyond. 

{mosads}The president noted his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Obama-era nuclear agreement between Iran and other world powers and stressed that many sanctions would be reimposed on Iran in early November. 

“We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues,” he told the U.N. General Assembly in New York City.

Trump rattled off a laundry list of complaints against the “corrupt dictatorship” running Iran, saying it poses a threat to Israel and is helping to destabilize Syria and Yemen, which are both plagued by civil war.

“We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the world’s deadliest weapons,” he said. 

The broadside against Iran was emblematic of Trump’s willingness to go it alone on the world stage to advance what he sees as U.S. interests, a central theme of his speech to the general assembly. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly accused Trump of treating his nation unfairly and it remains unclear if other nations are willing to reverse course and take steps to isolate Iran. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal was unpopular with European allies.

There were signs during Tuesday’s speech that Trump’s approach has worn thin among world leaders. 

Members in the audience laughed when Trump boasted of the “extraordinary progress” during his presidency, during which he said he said he “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

Trump paused then responded, “I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK.”

The president has long argued that his predecessor, President Obama, made the U.S. a laughing stock on the world stage.

That tension did not deter Trump from promoting a number of controversial actions his administration has taken over the past year, including leaving the U.N. Human Rights Council, refusing to sign a global migration agreement, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and making threats against the International Criminal Court. 

“America is governed by Americans,” Trump said. “We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Even as Trump criticized the leaders of Venezuela, Syria and China over what he called their malignant activities, he said the U.S. would not be constrained by the concerns of the world community. 

“I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return,” he said. 

But many of Trump’s comments were met with silence or scorn. Members of the German delegation smiled and laughed when Trump suggested their nation would become hostage to Russia over an agreement to build an oil pipeline between the two nations.  

Trump sought to persuade his peers that his approach has been successful, pointing to his effort to use diplomacy to broker an agreement with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program.  

During last year’s address to the General Assembly, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it continued with its nuclear ambitions. But this year, Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for his “courage” in entering nuclear talks. 

Trump said later during a meeting with Colombia’s leader that the U.S. relationship with Iran could follow a similar path to Washington’s talks with Pyongyang. 

“I think that at some point we will have meaningful discussions and probably do a deal I don’t see how it works for them otherwise,” the president said.

But Trump’s critics say his approach is merely transactional and does little to advance U.S. interests.  

The president accused members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) of overcharging the U.S. for oil while accepting American military protection free of charge. 

“We defend many of these nations for nothing. And they repay us by giving us high oil prices. Not good,” Trump exclaimed. 

The president also said he has ordered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to review all U.S. foreign aid and redirect funds toward allies. 

“The United States is the biggest giver in the world by far of foreign aid, but few give anything to us,” he said. “Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and frankly who are our friends.”

The advocacy group Human Rights First said Trump’s speech “diverges wildly from American values.”

“President Trump’s overly-simplistic and distorted view of ‘sovereignty’ will be music to the ears of authoritarian leaders from Moscow to Beijing,” said Rob Berschinski, the group’s senior vice president for policy. “What the president of the United States presented to the world this morning wasn’t so much an articulation of American values as a rejection of what has made this country both great and good.”

Updated at 12:17 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Iran Iran Nuclear pact Iran sanctions Mike Pompeo Trump foreign policy U.N. General Assembly

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