Trump Expected to Tell Iran to Back Off in Syria in UN Address, U.S. Official Says

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Trump during a meeting at the UN headquarters on September 18, 2017 in New York City.
Trump during a meeting at the UN headquarters on September 18, 2017 in New York City.Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

The United States will "not allow the 'Lebanonization' of Syria" and will push back against Iranian influence there and elsewhere in the Middle East, a senior state department official said Monday, offering a possible preview of what U.S. President Donald Trump might say Tuesday night in his planned speech at the United Nations.

The speech would mark Trump's first address to the international body.

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Brian Hook, the head of policy planning at the State Department, told reporters in New York that Iran will be mentioned in the president’s speech, and not favorably. He said Trump is devoted to stopping Iran from creating a long-term presence for itself in Syria in the way it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Hook added that Trump heard about the fears of Iran’s long-term plans in the region during the meetings he had Monday with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Emmanuel Macron. “One of the things that was common to both meetings was a deep concern about Iran’s activities in Syria,” he said.

A senior White House official who briefed the press on Monday night as well, said Trump will make a clear distinction in his speech between the Iranian people and their government under an Islamist regime.

“The speech will point out that the greatest threat to the status quo in Iran is the Iranian people themselves. It will separate the government from the people of Iran. Great strategic thought has been directed towards that,” the senior White House official said, who did not want to be named.

He also said that Trump's speech will focus on his world vision in which respect and cooperation between sovereign nation-states is the leading theme. “The president has articulated a policy of realism,” the official said. “He’s not interested in nation building and spreading democracy, but in ensuring sttability and peace.”

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