President Donald Trump on Tuesday attacked Iran in a heated speech at the United Nations General Assembly, in what sounded like an update of an address he made one year ago at the same venue railing against North Korea. But Iran’s leader made it clear hours later that Trump shouldn’t expect similar results when it comes to negotiating with Tehran.
Trump on Tuesday repeated his criticism of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal ― which the U.S. withdrew from in May ― and accused Iranian leaders of supporting terrorism and corruption and of sowing chaos in the Middle East. He vowed to impose more economic sanctions against Iran and called for the country’s international isolation.
Just as with North Korea last time around, Trump’s attacks come as he seeks to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran. The president’s rhetoric toward Iran has echoed the threats, insults and occasional diplomatic overtures he used ahead of negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program earlier this year. In those negotiations, he took an aggressive initial stance before agreeing to a summit and drastically softening his tone on the country.
While the ongoing North Korean nuclear negotiations helped de-escalate a potential military conflict, something Trump’s rhetoric stirred widespread concern over, it’s still unclear what the end result of the process will be. Trump, however, has lauded the negotiations as a major achievement and claimed on Tuesday that talks with North Korea were going great and that he would soon have another summit with leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump may be looking for a similar deal with Iran. He has repeatedly promised he will negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran that would be more effective than an agreement engineered by former President Barack Obama and five other nations to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country halting its nuclear program.
On Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted that any negotiations would have to take place in the multilateral context of the 2015 nuclear agreement and blamed the U.S. for failing to uphold the deal.
“No state can be brought to the negotiating table by force,” Rouhani said in his U.N. speech Tuesday.
Trump’s strategy on Iran is fundamentally flawed, lacks any coherent timeline and misunderstands Iranian domestic politics, experts have warned. The U.S. decision to walk away from the nuclear deal, for example, has already resulted in more hard-line politicians in Iran’s government gaining ground, as Rouhani tacked to the right to appease backlash over the agreement falling apart.
Europe’s continued commitment to the nuclear deal has also widened the rift between the U.S. and its allies, as leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom have publicly criticized Trump for pulling out of the deal. On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron argued for an approach to world issues radically different from the one Trump outlined ― calling for multilateralism and international institutions to deal with problems.
“We are pleased that the international community did not acquiesce to the U.S.’s illegal and unilateral withdrawal from that agreement,” Rouhani said.
But despite European attempts to keep the deal together, companies across the continent have begun to end their work in Iran out of fear of future sanctions. The next round of U.S. sanctions will kick in in early November, adding to the animosity between Washington and Tehran.
Rouhani implied in his speech that Iran would not follow the same course as North Korea and made a veiled reference to the summit between Trump and Kim being a “photo opportunity.”
Without initially mentioning Trump, he condemned world leaders who gain popular support using nationalism, racism and “xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition.” He further called U.S. opposition to Iran “doomed to failure,” while claiming the White House is trying to destroy international agreements and institutions.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran were already high after both countries accused each other of supporting terrorism after a militant attack Saturday at a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, killed 25 people and wounded dozens more.
The Iranian government vaguely accused Washington-backed governments in the Middle East and their “U.S. masters” of supporting the militant group that took credit for the attack. In response, Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told Rouhani to “look in the mirror” instead of blaming the U.S. for terrorism.