Donald Trump castigates Iran’s ‘repressive regime’ in UN speech
Donald Trump has told the UN that he would “never fail” to defend US interests as he castigated Iran’s “repressive” regime for an attack on Saudi Arabia it has been accused of backing, yet held out the prospect of friendship.
“One of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations today is the repressive regime in Iran. The regime’s record of death and destruction is well known,” the US president said at the UN General Assembly in New York. “The regime is squandering the nation’s wealth and future on a fanatical quest for nuclear weapons . . . We must never allow this to happen.”
Mr Trump accused Iran of being responsible for the attack 10 days ago on Saudi oil facilities and said that Tehran had “escalated its violent and unprovoked aggression” in an effort to pressure the US to lift sanctions. An Iranian official said Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, was not in the chamber when Mr Trump spoke.
“All nations have a duty to act. No responsible government should subsidise Iran’s blood lust,” Mr Trump said. “As long as Iran’s menacing behaviour continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened.”
Shortly after telling the assembly that the US was the most powerful military nation in the world — but that he hoped it would “never have to use this power” — the president said he was ready to “embrace friendship” with Tehran.
“The United States has never believed in permanent enemies. We want partners, not adversaries. America knows that while anyone can make war, only the most courageous can choose peace,”
Mr Trump said, as his administration continues to debate how to respond to the attacks. Mr Trump has over the past week said that he wanted to avoid military conflict, but he has also warned Tehran not to misinterpret his restraint as complacency. Pointing to his efforts to negotiate with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the US president said: “America’s goal is not to go with these endless wars, wars that never end.”
The UN address came as Mr Trump faces dual crises — escalating tensions with Iran and a mounting scandal about a controversial conversation with the Ukrainian president that has sparked calls for his impeachment. He did not refer to the domestic scandal, which erupted after a whistleblower complaint, but appeared to attack his own government, saying “a faceless bureaucracy operates in secret and weakens democratic rule”.
Mr Trump also promoted his “America First” vision on trade, saying: “The future does not belong to the globalists. The future belongs to patriots.” At the same time he castigated China for pursuing an economic model that had created an unfair playing field.
“Not only has China declined to adopt promised reforms. It has embraced an economic model dependent on massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping, forced technology transfers, and the theft of intellectual property and also trade secrets on a grand scale,” the president declared.
His comments come just days after Chinese trade negotiators left Washington following days of talks aimed at trying to reach a deal to end the more than year-long trade war.
“Hopefully, we can reach an agreement that would be beneficial for both countries. But as I have made very clear, I will not accept a bad deal for the American people,” Mr Trump said.
He also took a shot across the bow of China over the anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong, saying he was relying on Chinese president Xi Jinping to adhere to international commitments over its treatment of the territory, which has been governed under a “one country, two systems” model since the UK returned the city to China in 1997.
“The world fully expects that the Chinese government will honour is binding treaty made with the British and registered with the United Nations in which China commits to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, legal system and democratic ways of life. How China chooses to handle the situation will say a great deal about its role in the world in the future,” the president said.
While Mr Trump took China to task, he said he would finalise a trade deal with Japan when he met Shinzo Abe, the country’s prime minister, on Wednesday. He also said he was ready to agree a free trade deal with the UK after its exit from the EU: “We are working closely with Prime Minister Boris Johnson for a magnificent new trade deal.”