Aside from being laughed at by the audience, Trump achieved very little in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly today. The president talked a lot about the importance of sovereignty, and then called on the rest of the world to gang up on Iran to infringe on their sovereignty. It is nothing new for hard-liners to treat the sovereignty of their country as sacrosanct at the same time that they routinely violate the sovereignty of other states, but Trump made a point of boasting about this double standard before the entire world.
There was also the usual hypocritical denunciation of Iranian behavior that we have come to expect in these speeches:
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump said in his address. “They do not respect their neighbors or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.
Other governments would have more reason to use those descriptions for the behavior of our government in the Middle East over the last thirty years. Iran has pursued destructive policies during the same period, but the same could be said of several U.S. clients as well. Trump refers to Iran’s “agenda of aggression and expansion,” which would much more accurately describe the actions of the Saudis and Emiratis. The president had the gall to praise the Saudis and Emiratis for their humanitarian assistance to Yemen when it is their U.S.-backed bombing campaign and blockade that created the catastrophe that threatens to claim millions of lives. Trump ignores the latter because the U.S. is aiding and abetting the coalition in its war crimes and shares responsibility for creating the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. The Saudi coalition’s leaders and our political leaders are just as guilty of sowing death and destruction, and in Yemen they are doing so on a massive scale.
Trump asserted that “so many countries in the Middle East strongly supported at my decision to withdraw the United States from the horrible 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimpose nuclear sanctions,” but in fact only a handful of countries including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE supported this decision. Almost all other countries in the region and the world consider the reimposition of nuclear sanctions to be illegitimate and unjustified because Iran continues to be comply with the JCPOA. Many of Iran’s immediate neighbors are being negatively affected by the sanctions.
Iraq desperately needs to be exempted from these sanctions because its economy is intertwined with that of its neighbor. Trump’s decision is not popular there, and the sanctions are already causing hardship. The same is true for Afghanistan. Turkey has made it clear that they won’t go along with the U.S. effort to cut off Iran’s oil exports.
The reimposition of sanctions not only hurts the Iranian people, but imposes significant costs on the populations of neighboring countries as well. Trump’s Iran policy is inflicting harm on the entire region, and it is stoking greater resentment against the U.S. It is Trump’s effort to strangle Iran’s economy that threatens and harms Iran’s neighbors more than anything that Iran is currently doing.