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Trump talks US economy, sovereignty at UN summit

September 25, 2018

President Donald Trump has harshly criticized Iran in a speech at the United Nations, saying Tehran must change its behavior or face further consequences. Trump administration officials have also upped their rhetoric.

US President Trump addresses the UN General Assembly in New York
Image: Reuters/C.Allegri

Trump's bluster draws laughter from UN audience

US President Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, giving a wide-ranging speech that touched on many of his favorite topics: national sovereignty, gains the US has made under his administration, Russia and Iran.

The president arrived significantly behind schedule for his speech, forcing organizers to change the order of speakers.

Trump's top quotes

  • "We've accomplished more than any other administration in American history." The president's opening line drew derisive laughter from the crowd. "I wasn't expecting that reaction," he responded.
  • "Iran's leaders sow chaos, death and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead Iran's leaders plunder the nation's resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond."
  • "Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if they don't change their course."
  • "We're doing very well with North Korea," Trump said, thanking leader Kim Jong Un, as well as China, South Korea and Japan for their help.
  • "We will examine what is working, what is not working, and whether the countries who receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart," the president said of the US' massive foreign aid budget.
  • "America will always chose independence over global governance, control and domination...We will never surrender American sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy."

Trump scolds Germany for agreeing to an oil pipeline with Russia

America First, energy and Iran

Trump spent the first few minutes of his speech talking up the US economy and sinking unemployment figures. He went on to praise his country's booming energy sector, before accusing OPEC countries of trying to bend the rest of the world to their will. During this portion of his talk he singled out Germany for, in his mind, relying too heavily on Russian natural gas.

Trump talked up diplomatic success with North Korea, before slamming both Moscow and the Syrian government for atrocities committed against civilians in Syria. He then turned his ire to Iran, defending his decision to withdraw from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions. He said Tehran must "change its tune" before Washington considers rolling back the sanctions.

Trump further accused Iran of having a "bloody agenda" in Yemen and Syria, which is why the US was using "economic pressure" to deny Iran the money it needs to finance these operations.

Macron urges leaders to reject nationalism

In his speech at the UN, French President Emmanuel Macron warned world leaders against adopting isolationist practices amid growing skepticism of the European Union and the UN. 

"Nationalism always leads to defeat," he said.

Macron also called for "dialogue and multilateralism" in dealing with issues concerning Iran, saying that the Iran nuclear deal helped to curb Tehran's nuclear program. 

"What will bring a real solution to the situation in Iran and what has already stabilized it? The law of the strongest? Pressure from only one side? No!" he said.

Trump asks all nations to isolate Iran

US to be 'aggressive' on sanctions

Trump administration officials also upped their rhetoric against Iran in separate remarks in New York on Tuesday.

In a strongly worded speech delivered to an organization that opposes the Iran nuclear deal, National Security Adviser John Bolton warned there would "be hell to pay" if Tehran crossed the US or its allies. He also vowed the US would be "aggressive and unwavering" in enforcing economic sanctions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo likewise urged for the international community to join the US in taking action against what he described as "an outlaw regime."

Iran slams Trump's 'authoritarian' policies

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized the Trump administration in his speech before the UN, saying Washington's decision to reimpose sanctions amounts to "economic terrorism."

"The United States' understanding of international relations is authoritarian," Rouhani said. "In its estimation, might makes right. Its understanding of power, not of legal and legitimate authority, is reflected in bullying and imposition."

Facing the prospect of US penalties due to sanctions, the European Union is currently working on setting up a legal entity to avoid penalties from US sanctions. The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Monday that the system would allow companies to continue buying oil and conduct other business with Iran.

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Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.