In his first address to UN, President Trump emphasized nationalism and sovereignty and termed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “rocket man” who is on the suicide mission. He lambasted at Iran for poking its nose in the Middle East affair. His speech was full of political rhetoric which made the foundation of his foreign policy.
Sumera B. Reshi
On September 19, U.S. President Donald Trump gave his maiden UN General Assembly speech. Expectedly, Trump dedicated portions of his remarks and accused Iran of its destabilizing activities and reiterating his criticism of the nuclear deal his predecessor, President Barack Obama, reached with the country. Trump called the nuclear deal “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into” and “an embarrassment to the United States.” He also signalled that the United States wouldn’t be sticking to the deal much longer when he argued that “we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual.
Also, during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Trump called on countries to stop trade with North Korea and stop its nuclear program. He also targeted Iran, calling it a ‘reckless regime’ that funds terrorism. Trump also accused Tehran of squandering Iran’s wealth by supporting Syria’s Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Yemen’s Houthi rebel group which experts believe is a part of ‘Trumpian strategy’.
Trump appeared to signal he may soon declare Iran out of compliance with the 2015 agreement that the United States and five other nations negotiated with Iran for the Islamic Republic to curb its nuclear weapons program. Nuclear inspectors recently determined that inspections found no evidence Iran is in violation of the agreement. The parties that negotiated the deal, including China, France and Germany.
Further, he deprecated North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying his country “threatens the entire world with the unthinkable loss of life.” However, he praised the U.N. for imposing economic sanctions on Pyongyang, but he also said if the regime continues to threaten the United States and its allies and to destabilize East Asia; the U.S. is prepared to take action. Trump was attempting to rally the world for war against a “small group of rogue regimes”. 15 years earlier President Bush used the same rhetoric, stood at the same podium to warn of the “axis of evil” before launching a calamitous war in Iraq, based on the false premise of weapons of mass destruction, a war that plunged the region into chaos and the effects of which are still being felt today.
Yet in spite of Trump’s best efforts to group North Korea and Iran together, it’s pretty obvious to anyone that the two cases couldn’t be more dissimilar. While North Korea increasingly isolates itself from the rest of the world in relentless pursuit of its nuclear weapons program and repeatedly defied UN resolutions, Iran decided to engage with the international community in 2015, signing a nuclear deal that in exchange for the lifting of sanctions meant that Iran would roll back its nuclear program by eliminating its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, reduce its centrifuges and would only enrich uranium up to a certain percentage.
Owing to the September 19 acerbic speech, Iran doesn’t seem to be too happy with President Trump’s address at the UN.
“Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times-not the 21st Century UN -unworthy of a reply,” tweeted Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister. “Fake empathy for Iranians fools no one.”
While responding to Trump’s speech, Zarif said attacks on Iran during Trump’s high-profile speech used rhetoric that was harsh even by his own standards.
Iran will “respond decisively” to any violation of the Iranian nuclear agreement, warned President Hasan Rouhani, while slamming US President Donald Trump’s “ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric” about Iran being unfit to be heard at the United Nations. “The world will have lost a great opportunity, but such unfortunate behaviour will never impede Iran’s course of progress and advancement.”
Rouhani backlashed after a day at Trump for his maiden address to the assembly in which he called the UN-backed Iran nuclear deal “an embarrassment”.
Though Iran is sticking to the 2015 nuclear deal, none of this matters much to Trump. He believes that there are only winners and losers, plain and simple, no in between, no room for compromise, just the total defeat of the opposing side. Trump’s approach is neither positive nor will it bear any fruits as states negotiate and compromise with one another for the sake of keeping the peace, analysts believe.
Experts are of the opinion that the US wants to ensure that Iran stops infuriating US allies in the region and obviously Saudi Arabia is one of the allies, a state which scores low at human rights violations. Threatening to cancel the deal will not help resolve these matters. According to Nicholas Miller, a nuclear proliferation scholar at Dartmouth College, Trump’s pugnacious remarks vis-a-vis North Korea are old hat and therefore unlikely to move the needle in the psychological game that is being played by the president and the North Korean leader.
Nevertheless, his statements on Iran could have a much greater impact, as this could indicate that the president may be prepared to abolish or change the nuclear deal reached with Tehran when it is up for a review in Washington in October.
“Trump’s hint that he may withdraw from or otherwise might undermine the JCPOA, (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran) is also concerning”.
It is likely that the US withdrawal from the deal would increase the possibility that Iran ramps up its enrichment program, bringing it very close to a nuclear weapons capability. This would increase the risk of war in the region, make it more likely that countries like Saudi Arabia seek nuclear weapons of their own, and make it even harder to find a diplomatic solution to the North Korea issue.
As stated by the Deutsche Welle online portal, Trump didn’t invite debate or discussion but did announce that the UN had not heard the last of the Iran deal, the report added that this kind of behavior is unusual for a forum like the United Nations General Assembly, which is a deliberative body.
Probably to the relief of many present in New York, Trump did not specifically address previous plans to massively cut US funding for the UN. Instead, he appeared to imply a carrot-and-stick approach with the organization.
But on this issue, as on many others like North Korea, Iran or the ongoing crisis in Venezuela which he cited, Trump did not offer any concrete policy suggestions or demands.
Besides, lashing on North Korea and Iran, Trump tried to square the “America First” slogan that has characterized his presidency with the goal of cooperation among the international community that the UN represents.
Not just North Korea and Iran were at the fire of President Trump but in his speech, he targeted Venezuela for the socialist policies of the Nicolas Maduro government and the destruction of its democracy. Moreover, there is a general agreement on the threat posed by North Korea, but China and Russia have a somewhat different idea of where their national sovereign interests lie in determining how to confront Pyongyang. On Iran, while the Sunni Muslim world and Israel largely share the U.S. view that the nuclear agreement is detrimental, most European allies differ.
In his maiden UN speech, Trump warned of dire consequences to Pyongyang and Tehran, however, he did not discuss climate change, non proliferation, human rights or the Middle East peace process that had been an essential part of previous presidents’ speeches. Nor did he acknowledge the suffering in Myanmar, where U.N. described “ethnic cleansing” has driven nearly a half-million people from the country since January 2017.
Needless to say that Trump’s UN speech might have earned him a silent applause but his tone has raised some concern among allies too, as Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign minister, made clear. “We never talk about destroying countries,” she said.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, whose country was one of the negotiating parties for the Iran deal, likewise took exception. In his General Assembly address, Mr Macron called the agreement “solid, robust and verifiable,” and said renouncing it would be a “grave error.”
While he shared Trump’s views that North Korea’s nuclear bellicosity was dangerous and unacceptable, Mr Macron said the multilateral diplomatic pressure was the best solution. “France rejects escalation and will not close any door to dialogue,” he said.
The French president also confronted a big issue Mr Trump conspicuously omitted, climate change. “The planet will not negotiate with us,” Mr Macron said, referring to the Paris climate accord that Mr Trump has renounced. He also renounced the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and threatened to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement if it is not renegotiated to his liking.
Political analysts argue that the Trump’s threat was simply a reiteration of the vow that the US would respond to if a nuclear weapon was ever used against the US or its allies.
But his casual threat of the use of nuclear weapons was chilling coming from an American President. And it appeared to reflect a decision by the administration that increasing threats against Kim could cause him to succumb even though Trump’s bellicosity has utterly failed to halt North Korea’s accelerating bid to twin a nuclear bomb with a long-range missile.
Trump’s language on Iran was just as striking, as he signalled a return to the Cold War that has prevailed between Tehran and Washington since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and gave the strongest sign yet that he will pull out of the nuclear deal agreed during a brief thaw in relations under Obama.
Besides taking a stern stand on Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, president Trump applauded the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II, one of the great achievements of American foreign policy. Apparently, the relegation of values like human rights and democracy promotion appears to ignore the moral leadership role that Washington has played in the Western alliance in the 70 years. Similarly, Trump’s rejection of global trade deals and multilateral approaches to common problems may threaten the soft power influence that has underwritten American global dominance for decades.
With the aim to unnerve Iran, the new US policy might focus on the possibility of strengthening Washington’s relations with Iran’s pro-democratic groups. This is the message Tehran will most likely be taking in deeply and discussing in length. But the world has no other option to wait until October 15, the day when Trump is going to announce the fate of Iran – US nuclear agreement. Let us see whether President Trump walks the talk.