Trump to UN: Confront North Korea And Iran
Donald Trump will use his first address to the UN general assembly on Tuesday to call for international action to confront North Korea and Iran, which he will portray as twin threats to global security, the White House said.
The US president will warn member states that they risk being “bystanders in history” if they do not mobilise to confront such threats, according to a senior White House official.
The official also said that Trump would use his address to sketch out his vision of how nation states could cooperate in the face of the such challenges, without compromising their sovereignty. In that way, the official argued, asking for other nations to take part in collective action was consistent with Trump’s “America First” approach.
Trump’s speech will focus on “world regimes that threaten security”, the official said.
“Obviously one of the chief regimes that will be singled out in this regard is the regime of North Korea and all of its destabilising hostile and dangerous behaviour, as well as of course the regime of Iran,” he argued.
“And in those two cases as well as others, an appeal to others nations to do their part in confronting these threats, and understanding it is a shared menace and that nations cannot be bystanders in history,” the official added. “And if you don’t confront the threats now, they will only gather force and become more formidable as time passes.”
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Trump’s speech will seek to distinguish between the Iranian government and the Iranian population, and the president will suggest that they are at odds.
“One of the strategic implications of the speech is to point out that one of the greatest threats to the status quo in Iran is the Iranian people themselves,” the White House official said.
“So obviously there will be some discussion of the tension the direction the country is currently being run in and the desires of the people and what kind of future they want to have. So there is a lot of strategic thought in the speech in terms of how to separate out the government from the people of Iran.”
The crisis in Venezuela and the enduring threat of terrorism will also be discussed in Trump’s speech, the White House official said.
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Trump’s decision to single out North Korea and Iran is likely to draw comparisons with George W Bush’s state of the union speech in 2002, in which he described North Korea, Iran and Iraq as the “axis of evil”.
Little more than a year later, Bush led the invasion of Iraq on the claim, later proved groundless, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Trump’s call to action against Iran is likely to win even less support than Bush’s rallying cry against Iraq 15 years earlier. Iran signed a deal in 2015 accepting strict curbs on its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief, and the other signatories, the permanent members of the security council and Germany, say that Iran is abiding by the agreement. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agrees.
The UK, Washington’s key ally in Iraq, has stated repeatedly that it remains committed to the 2015 nuclear deal. Like France, Germany, Russia and China, it will resist any move to bracket Iran together with North Korea.
While there is security council consensus that North Korea has a major threat to international security and stability, there are differences on how tightly the country can be squeezed economically. China, its neighbour and major trade partner, does not want to trigger a regime collapse, and has resisted US calls for a complete oil embargo and naval blockade.
In challenging the viability of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, the US is a lonely voice on the security council. One of Trump’s few allies in his assault on the agreement, Benjamin Netanyahu, met the US president in New York on Monday.
Two hours later, Trump met the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in the same hotel room, and the French government made it clear that Macron would be arguing for the US to keep faith with the nuclear deal.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian argued the deal was vital to global security.
“It’s essential to maintain it to prevent a spiral of proliferation that would encourage hardliners in Iran to pursue nuclear weapons,” the minister told journalists in New York on the sidelines of this week’s UN general assembly.
Trump’s administration also faces isolation and accusations that it is itself a “bystander to history” by his intention to leave the Paris accord on climate change, which would put the US in the company only of Nicaragua and Syria.
Administration officials have suggested in recent days that the US might not leave the accord if it could be renegotiated.
“He did say to President Macron that he looks forward to continuing discussions with him,” said Brian Hook, the director of policy planning at the state department. “He is I think open to a number of different approaches that properly balance protecting the environment with protecting American workers and promoting economic growth and not giving an unfair advantage to other countries.”
The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is due to meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, for the first time on Wednesday evening at a session of a joint commission established by the signatories of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
On the even of his maiden UN speech, Trump made a brief appearance at a meeting about reform of the organisation. He praised the secretary general, Antonio Guterres, describing him as “fantastic”.
He extolled the noble goals of the organisation, but warned that in recent years the United Nations had not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement.
In his remarks, Trump – a former property developer and TV reality show host – could not resist a plug for his golden Trump Tower across the road from the UN headquarters. Because of the location, he said, it had “turned out to be such a successful project”.