Accused of trying to ‘topple’ Iran leader in UN war of words; Rouhani slams US, rules out meet
United Nations : US President Donald Trump called for Iran’s international isolation in a combative and unashamedly boastful speech at the at the ongoing 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), prompting accusations from his Iranian counterpart he was trying to topple his government.
In his second appearance before the General Assembly, Trump also lashed out at other adversaries such as Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and took aim at international institutions such as the UN-backed world court.
He even provoked derisive laughter from fellow leaders at the normally staid assembly by trumpeting the performance of his administration whose “America First” foreign policy continues to cause alarm.
But Trump also had warm words for the main target of his rhetoric at his UN debut last year as he praised the “courage” of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
Hours before Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani spoke from the same rostrum, Trump denounced the clerical regime in Tehran for sowing “chaos, death and destruction” as he defended his decision to ditch an internationally-brokered nuclear deal. “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” Trump said, alluding to Tehran’s support for Islamic militant movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah. “We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues.”
Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May, to the dismay of the other parties that had invested years in negotiations to keep Iran’s nuclear ambitions in check.
In his address, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stressed Tehran’s continued commitment to the deal and ridiculed Trump as a “preposterous” leader who was himself isolated.
In a sign of how some allies are unwilling to automatically follow Trump’s lead, the five remaining parties to the 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.
Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressing an anti-Iran pressure group, said he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” by the EU announcement.
“This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security,” Pompeo said.
Rouhani lashed out at the sanctions reinstated by the Trump-led US administration, saying they amounted to “economic terrorism” and “economic war”
He poured cold water on the idea of resuming talks with Washington, saying US claims it was not seeking regime change fooled no one. “It is ironic the US government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks,” Rouhani said.
“For dialogue to take place, there is no need for a photo opportunity. The two sides can listen to each other right here in this assembly.”
French President Emmanuel Macron used his speech to urge “dialogue and multilateralism,” crediting the 2015 accord with curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, another ally whose relations with Trump have cooled, did not mention the US President by name but there was little doubt who he had in mind when he said it was “very easy to create chaos but difficult to re-establish order.”
And South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was important to “resist any and all efforts to undermine the multilateral approach to international trade” at a time when Trump is hoisting tariffs against a variety of trading partners.
In his opening speech, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said trust in the rules-based global order and among states was “at a breaking point” and international cooperation was becoming more difficult, again without specifically mentioning Trump. “Today, world order is increasingly chaotic,” Guterres told the 193-nation assembly.
Trump robustly attacked “globalist” views and vowed that “America will never apologise for protecting its citizens.” He said the UN-backed International Criminal Court has “no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority”. His administration, which has recently choked off aid to the Palestinians, will only support “our friends” in the future, he added.
Boasting his team “has achieved more than any administration in the history of our country”, Trump was met with laughter.
“I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay,” he responded.
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”.
Venezuela’s “repressive regime” was another target of Trump’s invective, held responsible for a “human tragedy” in the once oil-rich nation.
Trump then openly mused that Maduro “could be toppled very quickly” if his military chiefs turned on him.
He also 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.”