By Carole Landry, AFP/United Nations
President Donald Trump yesterday called for Iran’s isolation while welcoming another former adversary, North Korea, in from the cold in an unabashedly boastful speech to the United Nations General Assembly which provoked laughter from fellow leaders.
Hours before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was due to speak from the same rostrum, Trump denounced the regime in Tehran for sowing “chaos, death and destruction” as he defended his decision to ditch an internationally brokered nuclear deal four months ago.
But after stunning the global body with his bellicose language on North Korea a year ago, including a threat to “totally destroy” Kim Jong-un’s state, Trump instead praised his one-time arch enemy for his “courage” as he hailed progress in fragile peace efforts with Pyongyang.
Since Trump came to power, promising that the world’s most powerful country would follow an “America First” foreign policy, there have been growing fears about the US commitment to multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.
Trump robustly attacked the “globalist” view of the world and vowed that “America will never apologise for protecting its citizens.”
He said that the UN-backed International Criminal Court has “no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority” and said that his administration — which has recently choked off aid to the Palestinians — would only support “our friends” in the future.
Boasting that his team “has achieved more than any administration in the history of our country,” Trump was met with laughter, highly unusual in the solemn General Assembly.
“I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay,” Trump responded.
But the most closely watched passage of his speech came when he turned to Iran.
“We cannot allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ and that threatens Israel with annihilation, to possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on Earth,” Trump said. “We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues.”
In a sign of how some allies are unwilling to automatically follow Trump’s lead, the five remaining parties to the Iran nuclear agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — announced on Monday plans to keep business ties alive with Iran, staring down Washington’s move to impose sanctions.
And French President Emmanuel Macron used his speech at the assembly to urge “dialogue and multilateralism” on dealing with Iran, crediting the 2015 accord with curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme.
While he praised China’s President Xi Jinping for his role in the North Korea peace process, Trump had harsh words for Beijing amid a growing trade war, saying the commercial imbalance with the Asian power “cannot be tolerated”.
He also criticised Opec, the global oil organisation that includes both US allies and foes.
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