Donald Trump chaired the UN Security Council this week to deliver a thuggish ultimatum to the world to obey American orders on Iran or face retribution for not kowtowing to Washington’s diktat.
The world’s highest forum for maintaining global security and peace was thus turned into a platform for brazen, criminal American rhetoric.
The 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York this week was a head-spinning spectacle of American bullying and arrogance – to the point where delegates couldn’t contain their laughter at one stage over Trump’s ridiculously self-righteous speech.
In his address to the assembly, Trump repeated the hackneyed accusations against Iran as being “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.” Nothing new in that, but what this US president is doing is putting Iran on notice that it either capitulates or faces violent aggression.
Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, in a separate speech in New York, warned Iran “there would be hell to pay” over Washington’s baseless accusations.
Washington reinforced its threats to impose a total embargo on Iran’s vital oil trade and cut Tehran off from the US-dominated international banking system. One could consider this to be an act of economic warfare pushing Iran towards further confrontation.
What’s more, when Trump chaired the Security Council meeting he provocatively warned other nations they face “severe consequences” if they continue to trade with Iran in defiance of US sanctions.
The day before, all the other signatories to the international nuclear accord with Iran held a meeting to reiterate their support for the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The European Union, in conjunction with Russia and China, is trying to set up a new payment mechanism which would circumvent US sanctions and banking restrictions.
Yet, here was Trump telling them, “Don’t even try it!” The president is saying that it’s the US way, or no way.
This unilateral imposition of Washington’s interests over all other nations, including its supposed allies, is the conduct of a tyrant which inevitably is inciting tensions leading to confrontation.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif correctly said the US was “abusing” the Security Council. Trump was using it as a forum to assert Washington’s dictatorial policy. The irony is that the forum is supposed to be one for maintaining global order and peace, but under American “leadership” it is used as a sounding board for US aggression.
The Security Council agenda this week was nominally about non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Trump opened the two-hour session with a rambling recap of his address to the General Assembly the previous day in which he used the Security Council to again demonize Iran as a terrorist regime “proliferating [ballistic] missiles all across the Middle East.”
Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord earlier this year, in May, constitutes a violation of international law, given that the JCPOA was ratified by the Security Council under Resolution 2231.
Yet, Trump tried to make a virtue of this American trashing of an international treaty by justifying it with baseless accusations against Iran. The “rogue state” epithet that Trump levels against Iran is actually more fitting for the US.
The president’s chairing of the Security Council meeting had, on a lighter note, the appearance of comic theater. At times it looked like Trump was holding a re-run of his reality TV show, The Apprentice, boasting about his imagined greatness.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador, set the gavel in front of Trump like it was a toy for the president to bang in order to get attention from the rest. Then at some later point during the session, probably due to boredom, the president walked out with his security guards, leaving Haley to fill his seat.
All the other permanent members of the UN Security Council – France, Britain, Russia and China – one after another rejected the US position that the Iran nuclear accord was “horrible”. Each one of them said it was a viable, working agreement making the world safer from non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reminded delegates that numerous inspections had shown Iran to be in complete compliance with the JCPOA, which meant that Trump’s withdrawal from the deal was unjustified and wrong and is increasing tensions and insecurity in the Middle East.
“The unilateral withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA is a serious threat to the international non-proliferation regime,” said Lavrov.
So, how’s that for paradox. Trump presides over the world’s top security committee with an agenda of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. But international consensus views the US as recklessly jeopardizing security.
It is hard to disagree with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, when he said of this week’s proceedings, that the US is the one being isolated on the world stage, not Iran.
The disturbing thing is this though. Trump and his hawkish administration officials do not give a fig what the rest of the world thinks. Everyone is wrong, the US is right, is their view.
That much was made clear in the way Trump had the unabashed conceit to chair the Security Council as an opportunity to exalt American self-righteousness despite its transparent transgression of international law concerning Iran.
American rhetoric at the UN is always a feast of hubris and self-serving falsehoods. But this year, Trump presented a veritable cornucopia of absurd contradictions.
He exhorted the Security Council on how “we can replace the horrors of war … with the beautiful promise of peace.” Just minutes before that mawkish flourish, Trump was putting the world on notice that it must follow US orders to strangulate Iran or be prepared for American punishment.
In this General Assembly speech, Trump swooned about the “sovereignty” of nations as a guiding principle in his vision for the world. Evidently however, in the real world, this US president, like his predecessors, has nothing but contempt for other nations’ sovereignty, if those nations dare to dissent from Washington’s diktat.
Another glaring contradiction is that Trump lambasts “global bureaucracy”, asserting that the US will never be held to account by international rules above its own laws. This “America First” doctrine is an embrace of lawlessness. That has always been the American way. Trump is merely making the doctrine explicit.
But while Trump wants US sovereignty to be an unbridled supreme power, he also has no hesitation in using the “global bureaucracy” of the UN and multilateralism to enforce Washington’s diktat over others. That’s wanting cake and eating it too.
America used to flatter its imperialism by claiming to be the “world’s policeman”. Under Trump, US power is apparently that of the “world’s thug”.
The contradictions in American rhetoric and reality are becoming so absurd, even polite diplomats can no longer keep a straight face.