Trump lashes out at Iran, vows more sanctions
UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump singled out Iran for particularly harsh criticism on Tuesday as his administration ramped up pressure on Tehran to change its behavior or face additional American consequences.
In his annual address to the United Nations, Trump blasted what he called Iran’s “corrupt dictatorship” and accused its leaders of enriching themselves through massive embezzlement and raiding state coffers to spread “mayhem” across the Middle East and around the world.
Trump called out Iran’s “bloody agenda” in Syria and Yemen in particular, vowing to continue to isolate Iran through U.S. sanctions that are being re-instated following his withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal earlier this year. The next round of sanctions that had been eased under the accord will take effect in early November and Trump said they would not be the last.
He later predicted that the pressure from renewed sanctions would force Iran back to the table to negotiate.
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump told the U.N. General Assembly in a 34-minute speech that was more critical of Iran than any other country. “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.”
Repeating his longstanding criticism of the nuclear deal, which was a signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration, Trump called it “horrible.” He maintained that many Middle Eastern countries had supported the decision to withdraw. In fact, only Israel and Gulf Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates enthusiastically backed the move.
The other parties to the deal, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, remain in the agreement and plan a meeting later this week in New York to reaffirm their support for it. Aside from Iran, the other participants are Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union.
Trump said the deal was a “windfall” for Iran’s leaders who used billions in sanctions relief to boost their military budget, increase repression, fund terrorism, havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen and enrich themselves.
His comments on embezzlement by Iranian authorities come after President Hassan Rouhani’s administration publicized details of the country’s budget for the first time. That budget revealed large increases in funding for religious foundations that are a key part of the clerical state-above-the-state, which receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the public coffers.
Those foundations, including religious schools and charities, are tied closely to powerful clerics and often serve as machines for patronage and propaganda to build support for their authority.
Trump’s speech followed a tweet in which he said that wouldn’t meet Rouhani on the sidelines of the General Assembly — although he said was sure Rouhani “is an absolutely lovely man!”
Trump later told reporters that “everything about Iran is failing right now.”
He described its inflation as the worst in the world and its currency, which is trading at all-time lows against the dollar, as a “disaster.” Trump, speaking to reporters as he met with Colombia’s president, said Iran’s leadership will “at some point” want to talk or risk exacerbating their economic crisis.
“I think that at some point we will have meaningful discussions and probably do a deal,” he said. “I don’t see how it works for them otherwise. Because otherwise, they’re going to be in the worst economic trouble of any country in the world.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, both known as Iran hawks, are due to speak later Tuesday at a meeting of a group dedicated to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapon.