NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump used his annual address to the United Nations on Tuesday to attack Iran’s “corrupt dictatorship,” praise last year’s bogeyman North Korea and lay down a defiant message that he will reject globalism and protect American interests.
“We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy,” Trump said, in language popular with his political base. “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”
Trump’s 35-minute address was met largely by silence from world leaders still not comfortable with go-it-alone views that have strained U.S. relationships with traditional allies worldwide.
His speech, while delivered in a low-key fashion, was nonetheless a thunderous recitation of his “America First” policies. He has disrupted the world order by withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord, and threatened to punish NATO nations for not paying more for their common defence.
“Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends. And we expect other countries to pay their fair share for the cost of their defence,” he said.
Besides calling out Iran, Trump also criticized China for its trade practices but made no mention of Russia’s interference in Syria’s war or its suspected meddling in U.S. elections.
MACRON’S ALTERNATIVE VIEW
Offering an alternative view when it was his turn at the podium, French President Emmanuel Macron told the delegates that the law of the survival of the fittest, protectionism and isolationism would only lead to heightened tensions.
Defending multilateralism and collective action, he warned that nationalism would lead to failure and if countries stopped defending basic principles, global wars would return.
“I do not accept the erosion of multilateralism and don’t accept our history unravelling,” Macron told the assembly at times raising his voice. “Our children are watching.”
Trump aimed much of his remarks squarely at Iran and its “corrupt dictatorship,” which the United States accuses of harbouring nuclear ambitions and fomenting instability in the Middle East through its support for militant groups in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump told the gathering in the green-marbled hall. “They do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.”
Macron, citing the example of Iran, which minutes earlier Trump had called on the world to isolate, Macron said that this unilateralism push would lead directly to conflicts.
Trump, who begins his political rallies with boasts about his economic record in less than two years in office, used the same rhetoric before the crowd of world leaders and diplomats, telling them he had accomplished more than almost any previous U.S. president.
The remark led to some murmuring and laughter in the crowd, taking the president slightly aback.
“I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” he said.
REJECTS MEETING ROUHANI
Trump, who said in a Twitter post on Tuesday morning that he had given up hope for a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani while both were in New York, said he would keep up economic pressure on Tehran to try to force a change in its behaviour. Rouhani is due to address leaders later on Tuesday.
In May, Republican Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 international deal to put curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for easing sanctions. Foes for decades, Washington and Tehran have been increasingly at odds since May. The accord with OPEC member Iran was negotiated under Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama.
“Additional sanctions will resume November 5th and more will follow and we are working with countries that import Iranian crude oil to cut their purchases substantially,” Trump said.
He said the United States would help create a regional strategic alliance between Gulf nations and Jordan and Egypt, an initiative that the United States sees as a bulwark against Iran.
Trump compared U.S. relations with Iran to what he called improved ties with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who Trump had met in Singapore in June as part of a still-unfulfilled drive to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.
In his address last year to the U.N., Trump insulted Kim as a “rocket man” bent on nuclear destruction. On Tuesday, Trump praised Kim for halting nuclear and missile tests, releasing Americans held prisoner and returning some remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the 1950s Korean War.
The two leaders are trying to arrange a second summit and are exchanging private correspondence. Trump has said sanctions on North Korea would remain for now.
Delivering a harsh message to OPEC members, Trump called on them to stop raising oil prices and to pay for their own military protection. He threatened to limit U.S. aid only to countries that are friendly to the United States.
A Gulf diplomat said in response that “we have been doing our fair share of burden sharing.”
Crude oil prices shot to a four-year high on Tuesday, catapulted by imminent U.S. sanctions on Iranian crude exports and the apparent reluctance of OPEC and Russia to raise output to offset the potential hit to global supply.
Trump’s main message was aimed at Iran and attempting to drive a wedge between its leadership and its people, days after an attack in southwestern Iran on a military parade killed 25 people and unsettled the country.
In remarks to reporters on his way to his speech, Trump said he would not meet the Iranians until they “change their tune.” He held out the possibility of a better relationship in the future.
Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission, told Reuters that Iran has not requested a meeting with Trump.
Some Iranian insiders have said any talks between Rouhani and Trump would effectively kill the existing nuclear accord, which France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union also signed with Iran.