Donald Trump

I have decided future of Iran nuclear deal, declares Trump before talks even begin

At UN, Trump’s blistering rhetoric is branded ‘ignorant, absurd and hateful’ by Iran’s President

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 2:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 10:52pm

“I have decided,” US President Donald Trump declared Wednesday, announcing he’d reached a verdict on the Iran nuclear deal’s future - even before top US and Iranian officials held their highest-level talks of his presidency.

Iran’s president, meanwhile, lashed out at “ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric” in response to Trump’s blistering attack at the UN.

The jabbing between Trump and Iran’s Hassan Rowhani set the stage for a contentious meeting of the nuclear accord’s parties. Trump has sent strong signals that he could walk away from the seven-nation agreement, which would potentially lead to new US sanctions on Iran and its international trading partners. The Iranians, in turn, have threatened to respond to any US pull-out by restarting nuclear activities that could take them closer to bomb-making capability.

Asked about his stance on the nuclear pact Wednesday, Trump said he had made a decision. Pressed for details, he replied coyly: “I’ll let you know.”

Shortly afterward, Vice-President Mike Pence told the UN Security Council that Iran “continues to flout the spirit of the Iran deal, destabilising the region and brazenly threatening the security of sovereign nations,” a toned-down version of the diatribe delivered by Trump in a General Assembly speech to fellow world leaders Tuesday.

It wasn’t clear if Trump had made a final decision to leave or stick with the Iran deal. On several other issues over his presidency, he has teased reporters with the idea that a major verdict might be imminent, only to delay announcements for weeks or months. Trump must next certify by October 15 if Iran is complying with the deal, and officials have said Trump may use that occasion to declare Iran in violation.

In any event, the US-Iranian exchanges augured poorly for Wednesday’s gathering of diplomats including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. A year ago, such a get-together would have been considered routine as nations strove to implement an agreement that curtailed Iran’s nuclear activity in exchange for an end to various oil, trade and financial restrictions on the country. In the current environment, it is anything but ordinary.

Zarif and his delegation arrived first for the meeting at the UN Security Council chamber. He was followed by Tillerson and his top aides, and the two sides spent several minutes apparently alone in the room before others, including EUforeign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, showed up. None of the participants spoke to journalists who were brought in for a brief photo opportunity.

Addressing the General Assembly earlier, Rowhani said his country won’t be the first to violate the nuclear agreement, “but it will respond decisively to its violation by any party.” In a dismissive jab at Trump he said, “It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics.”

“By violating its international commitments, the new US administration only destroys its own credibility and undermines international confidence in negotiating with it or accepting its word or promise,” Rowhani said. That echoes criticism even some of America’s allies have levelled at a time when the United States hopes to draw North Korea into a negotiation over its rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal.

Taking aim more specifically at Trump’s speech on Tuesday, Rowhani said: “The ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric filled with ridiculously baseless allegations that was uttered before this august body yesterday was not only unfit to be heard at the United Nations, which was established to promote peace and respect.”

Rowhani then told reporters at a news conference that the Iranian people are waiting for an apology from Trump for his “extremely offensive” rhetoric and baseless allegations. He said Trump is seeking “an excuse” to pull out of the nuclear deal and that it would be a “waste of time” for him to meet the president.

Trump’s withering critique in his own speech included an accusation that Iran’s government “masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy,” while ruthlessly repressing its people.

“It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos,” Trump said, repeating a litany of oft-spoken US complaints. These include Iran’s antipathy to Israel, support for terrorism and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, ballistic missile testing and its nuclear programme.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilising activities while building dangerous missiles,” Trump said. “And we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear programme.”