UPDATE 3 – Trump assails Iran during UN address


By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his controversial decision to unilaterally exit an accord that placed stringent limitations on Tehran's nuclear program, claiming the decision was met with praise by Iran's neighbors.

In his second speech before the UN General Assembly, Trump said 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," he said.

He pointed to Iran's support for the Syrian regime, painting it as the principal cause for the country's humanitarian crisis, as well as Tehran's backing of Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Trump continued to warn Bashar al-Assad against using chemical weapons, telling the General Assembly to be "rest assured, the United States will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime."

"Our shared goals must be the deescalation of military conflict, along with a political solution that honors the will of the Syrian people. In this vein, we urge the United Nations-led peace process be reinvigorated," he said.

Trump said Iran's regional neighbors "have paid a heavy toll" for Tehran's agenda, which he said has prompted "so many countries in the Middle East" to strongly support "my decision to withdraw the United States from the horrible 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and reimpose nuclear sanctions."

"We ask all nations to isolate Iran's regime as long as its aggression continues," Trump said.

Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May despite stiff opposition from close U.S. allies in Europe who are seeking to salvage the deal's nuclear-related restrictions, which Tehran accepted in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

The six remaining parties to the accord — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran — announced late Monday the creation of a system within the EU to facilitate ongoing payments to Iran in circumvention of U.S. sanctions.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters the legal entity — known as the "Special Purpose Vehicle" — will "facilitate legitimate transactions with Iran, and this will allow European companies to continue trade with Iran."

Mogherini said the system "could be open to other partners in the world."

Trump was slated to be the General Assembly's second speaker, but was running late to the multilateral gathering, forcing Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno to move up his speech to accommodate the U.S. president's tardiness. Trump spoke third.

In many ways Trump replaced the focus he placed on North Korea during his first address in 2017 with Iran. Of North Korea he said the efforts of the U.S. and global partners have served "to replace the specter of conflict with a bold and new push for peace."

While he thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "for his courage and for the steps he has taken," Trump maintained U.S. sanctions would remain in place despite Kim's urging that steps be taken to peel them back in return for Pyongyang's efforts.

The president further called on OPEC to lower oil prices, saying member countries are "ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it."

He criticized the oil cartel's members, many of whom are U.S. allies, saying the U.S. defends "many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices."

"We want them to stop raising prices, we want them to start lowering prices, and they must contribute substantially to military protection from now on. We are not going to put up with it — these horrible prices — much longer," he said.