Trump Speaks at the UN and Attacks Iran, But Draws Open Laughter from Delegates

The president of the United States spoke about the achievements of his administration in front of the U.N. General Assembly, but did not get the best welcome.

“Today I stand before the United Nations General Assembly to share the extraordinary progress we have made. In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” began Trump, triggering a ripple of collective laughter from delegates.

That was how his speech to the United Nations began, and it was the first sign of a decisive rupture between the White House and the nations represented in New York. Commenting on the giggles from other leaders, Trump said, “I did not expect that reaction, but that’s okay.” It was clear, however, that the opening weighed heavily on the president of the United States’ speech.

Once the awkward moment had passed, Trump resumed his speech, with a list of his key foreign policy points, focusing on North Korea, Syria, Iran and trade war.

As for North Korea, the U.S. president thanked Kim Jong Un for the progress that has been made. Trump declared that in the last few months, “the missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction. Nuclear testing has stopped [and] our hostages have been released.” These are all signs of progress that the U.S president is extremely satisfied with, and for which he thanked not only Pyongyang, but also other governments that have made the agreement with North Korea possible (Russia was not mentioned here).

After those conciliatory words about North Korea (the president confirmed that sanctions in the country will nonetheless remain in place until complete denuclearization is achieved), the next topic was Iran. At this point, the speech’s tone turned much more uncompromising.

In what looked like a return to the most heated clashes between Tehran and Washington, Trump did not mince his words about the Iranian government. The U.S. leader referred to it as a “brutal” and “bloody” “regime,” and went on to tell the General Assembly that the country’s “leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East.” While confirming his desire to help the Iranian people, the president continues to back the possibility of regime change even though the Pentagon and the State Department have tended to downplay such an outcome.

Although Trump claims to be a defender of the Iranian people, he also announced additional sanctions “as long as its aggression continues.” The sanctions are designed to hit those in power in Iran, but they in fact drag the entire country into a downward spiral of economic and social crises. These crises consequently become political, creating pressure that risks bringing down the entire system.

Trump went on to say that Tehran has “used the funds to… fund havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen. The United States has launched a campaign of economic pressure to deny the regime the funds it needs… We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons. 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.” His words seemed to preclude any possibility of a deal with Tehran. However, we should not forget the escalation of rhetoric with North Korea before the Singapore deal was reached.

As for the Middle East – and therefore also for Iran – the part of his speech dealing with the war in Syria was also interesting. The president reiterated that the United States will continue to work towards “the de-escalation of military conflict,” and added that “the ongoing tragedy in Syria is heartbreaking… we urge the United Nations-led peace process to be reinvigorated, [leading to a] ‘political solution.’” He also repeated a willingness on the part of America to bomb the Syrian army in the event of chemical weapons being used.

Trump also extended a hand to other Arab countries involved in the war, saying they are stretching themselves financially to help the Syrian people. Given the Gulf monarchies’ links with the Islamic militias that are rampant in Syria, his words did not quite add up. In any case, the speech was symbolic of this administration’s foreign policy. The current presidency has always made clear that its links with the Persian Gulf kingdoms are extremely solid, and this assault on Iran is the clearest demonstration of that.

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