The Syrian government's "butchery" of its citizens is enabled by Russia and Iran, U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday while criticizing the Bashar Assad's regime alleged use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. The comments were made during Trump's opening address to the UN Security Council, which he is chairing.
Trump also addressed U.S. policy on Iran, advances in the denuclearization of North Korea and his administration's trade war with China during his opening statement.
Seated at the center of an arc-shaped table, Trump immediately uttered tough words against Iran, saying that a government with Iran's track record "must never be allowed to obtain" a nuclear weapon.
At the same time, he thanked Iran, Russia and Syria for slowing their attack on Idlib province in Syria. Last week, Russia and Turkey reached a deal to avert an offensive against Idlib, the last major rebel-held stronghold in Syria.
Speaking of Bashar Assad's regime use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians during clashes with rebel forces, Trump said "Syria's butchery is enabled by Russia and Iran."
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Trump also said many things are happening "behind the scenes" in North Korea, and that good news would be coming in the coming months and years. Trump also commended Kim Jong Un for reaffirming his commitment to denuclearization, properity and peace for the peninsula.
Trump also claimed China has been attempting to interfere with the upcoming U.S. midterm elections, but provided no further details.
"Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election," he said.
U.S. intelligence officials have said previously that other nations could opt to try and copy Russia's playbook of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But Trump's comments Wednesday seem to confirm that China is actively interfering now.
Trump said Beijing doesn't want him or the Republicans "to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade."
This is Trump’s first experience in leading a session of the UN’s most powerful body, where the U.S. currently holds the rotating presidency — a perch it is using to double down on its criticism of Iran.
While Wednesday’s meeting of the council is addressing the issue of nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, Trump himself has left little doubt that it’ll be another chance to target Tehran.
On Tuesday, during an unabashedly “America First” speech, Trump said Iranian leaders “sow chaos, death and destruction” and “spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.” His national security adviser, John Bolton, warned that there would be “hell to pay” if Tehran crossed the U.S., its allies or their partners.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani responded by accusing the Trump administration of violating the rules of international law and “state obligations” by withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with the U.S. and five other major powers.
Rohani is almost certain not to attend the Security Council meeting that will test Trump’s ability to maintain diplomatic decorum and interact with representatives of rival nations.
The council is populated by five permanent members — the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France — and 10 other member states, who occupy a council seat for two-year terms. Iran is not among them.
Business will continue Wednesday at the General Assembly, where for a second day, 193 UN members take turns to speak out on pressing world issues and their national priorities in world affairs.
Among those tentatively scheduled to speak are the leaders of Panama, Iraq, Colombia, Afghanistan and Cuba.
This year, 133 world leaders have signed up to attend this year’s assembly session, which ends Oct. 1, a significant increase from the 114 leaders last year.
However, America’s go-it-alone attitude and growing divisions among key world powers risk eroding the UN’s ability to bring positive change in global affairs and end conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere.