UPDATE – Trump slams Russia, Iran for enabling Syrian regime


By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump tore into Russia and Iran for bolstering the Syrian regime Wednesday, saying Bashar al-Assad's allies have enabled his "butchery."

Trump made the comments while chairing a UN Security Council session devoted to discussing non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The president thanked Turkey for helping to avoid a regime offensive in northwestern Syrian's Idlib province.

"Get the terrorists, but I hope the restraint continues. The world is watching," he said. "Thank you also to Turkey for helping to negotiate restraint. Anything the U.S.A. can do to help resolve this problem in order to save perhaps even hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe more, we are willing and able. We are available to help."

Idlib, most of which is under the Free Syrian Army (FSA)’s control, is located just across the border from Turkey’s Hatay province.

The northwestern province is Syria’s last opposition stronghold. The east, west and south of the city remain under siege by Iranian-backed militants, roughly 60,000 of whom have been deployed around Idlib.

While the moderate opposition has more than 70,000 fighters in the region, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other groups widely considered to be terrorist organizations can field some 20,000 fighters.

Trump continued to rap a 2015 nuclear deal world powers, including the U.S., struck with Iran. The agreement provided Tehran with billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions in exchange for its acceptance of sweeping curbs on and inspections of its nuclear program.

Trump went on to say that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action's (JCPOA) economic benefits for Tehran were a windfall for the Iranian government "when they needed it the most" while calling on Security Council states to join the U.S. pressuring Iran after all of the U.S.'s sanctions snap back Nov. 4.

Washington will pursue additional "tougher" sanctions after that date "to counter the full range of Iran's malign conduct," he said.

"Any individual or entity who fails to comply with these sanctions will face severe consequences," he warned. "I ask all members of the Security Council to work with the United States to ensure the Iranian regime changes its behavior, and never acquires a nuclear bomb."

The president unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in May, despite strong objections from all six other parties to the accord — the UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran.

All of the nations remaining in the agreement who were present at Wednesday's Security Council meeting were adamant it is essential to ensuring Iran does not attain nuclear weapons.

"The JCPOA is imperfect, but it is a decisive step in that exact direction," French President Emmanuel Macron said in translated remarks. "A serious crisis of confidence was opened by the reimposition of extraterritorial sanctions by the United States, but Tehran continues abiding by its nuclear obligations."

Macron's comments were later echoed by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“The unilateral withdraw of the United States from this creates a serious threat for the nonproliferation regime, all the more so since, as this was underscored by many, Tehran is strictly abiding by its commitments with JCPOA, and this is something the IAEA is regularly confirming,” Lavrov said.

He was referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring the agreement's implementation.

All six parties remaining in the agreement announced Monday the creation of a "Special Purpose Vehicle" which is intended to facilitate financial transactions with Iran allowed under the nuclear pact, drawing Washington's ire.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the system, which will be set up by EU member states, will allow "European companies to continue trade with Iran" and said the system "could be open to other partners in the world."

The system has cast doubt on the impacts of additional U.S. sanctions on Iran's economy.