Iran is world’s ‘leading sponsor of terrorism’, Trump tells UN

US president returns to ‘America first’ themes but has kind words for North Korea

US president Donald Trump has addressed the UN general assembly, calling on other nations to "isolate Iran's regime." Video: The White House

US president Donald Trump urged the international community to join the United States in isolating Iran as he denounced the Iranian regime as the world's "leading sponsor of terrorism".

In a mostly combative speech on Tuesday to the UN general assembly that returned to many of the "America first" themes of his presidential campaign, Mr Trump had conciliatory words for North Korea.

In contrast to last year's speech, in which he denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "little rocket man" and threatened to "totally destroy" his country, this year he thanked Mr Kim for his "courage", highlighting the dialogue between the two leaders.

His meeting with Mr Kim in Singapore in June meant the US was replacing the "spectre of conflict with a bold and new push for peace", he said. "I think you're going to see a very, very great outcome," he said later in remarks to leaders at a lunch event.


During his keynote speech, Mr Trump focused his ire on Iran. “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the world’s most dangerous weapons,” he said as he lambasted the 2015 nuclear deal.

Asserting that Iran’s neighbours had “paid a heavy toll” for the regime’s “agenda of aggression and expansion”, he said that the Iran deal – under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions – was a “windfall for Iran’s leaders”.

He said that since the deal was reached in 2015, Iran’s military budget had grown by nearly 40 per cent, it had developed nuclear-capable missiles and increased its funding of terrorism.

Rouhani meeting

Earlier in the day Mr Trump said he did not plan on meeting Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in New York, but he left the door open to a future meeting.

“Iran has to change its tune before I meet with them. They want to meet. I’m not meeting with them until they change their tune. It will happen ... We look forward to having a great relationship with Iran, but it won’t happen now.”

In a Twitter post he also said he did not plan to meet Mr Rouhani but added: “I’m sure he’s an absolutely lovely man.”

In an interview with CNN, Mr Rouhani disputed Mr Trump’s claim that Iran had requested a meeting, claiming that Iran had received eight requests from United States officials to meet.

Mr Trump is due to chair a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday morning that will focus on Iran. While the United States pulled out of the deal in May, the other signatories to it – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union – remain committed it.

American bypass

The European and other signatories announced on Monday night at the UN the establishment of a special purpose vehicle that will allow companies to continue doing business with Iran, bypassing US sanctions.

As well as its focus on foreign policy, Mr Trump’s speech revived many of the protectionist themes of his campaign trail. Denouncing countries for taking advantage of the US economy, he said his administration had already started to renegotiate “broken and bad trade deals”. The US would “not be taken advantage of any longer”, he said.

“We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” he said.

He highlighted the US's energy independence, praising Poland for weaning itself off dependence on Russia for energy, and singling out Germany for criticism over its use of Russian energy.

Similarly, he said the US would not be joining the new global compact on migration, saying “migration should not be governed by an international body, unaccountable by our own citizens.”

He said the long-term solution for migration was “to help people to build more hopeful futures in their home countries – to “make their countries great again”.

He also hinted that the US would trim its foreign aid budget, noting that it was the largest aid donor in the world.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent