US warns Tehran's 'days of impunity' are over

When Rohani spoke to the General Assembly, he compared Trump to Nazi leaders and called the US economic sanctions illegal.
Friday 28/09/2018
US President Donald Trump holds a news conference on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, September 26, 2018. (Reuters)
US President Donald Trump holds a news conference on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, September 26, 2018. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rohani escalated their verbal battle at the UN General Assembly with Trump and a top adviser threatening Tehran if it does not change its behaviour.

Trump, addressing the General Assembly, spoke cryptically of punishing Iran beyond sanctioning the country’s oil industry in November in the second phase of his plan to reinstate penalties waived under the Iran nuclear deal. “Additional sanctions will resume November 5th and more will follow,” Trump said without elaboration.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, was more belligerent in a speech later the same day at the United Against Nuclear Iran summit. “The days of impunity for Tehran and its enablers are over. The murderous regime and its supporters will face significant consequences if they do not change their behaviour,” Bolton said. “Let my message today be clear: We are watching and we will come after you.”

Bolton added: “If you cross us, our allies or our partners, if you harm our citizens, if you continue to lie, cheat and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay.”

When Rohani spoke to the General Assembly, he compared Trump to Nazi leaders and called the US economic sanctions illegal.

“Unlawful unilateral sanctions in themselves constitute a form of economic terrorism,” Rohani said, adding that the US effort to collapse Iran’s economy is “doomed to failure.” Trump reinstated sanctions against Iran after withdrawing the United States from the nuclear deal signed by his predecessor Barack Obama in 2015.

In a clear reference to Trump, Rohani said, “We are witnessing rulers in the world ride public sentiments and gain popular support through the fomenting of extremist nationalism and racism and through xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition.”

The harsh exchange exemplified the escalating antagonism between the United States and Iran and destroyed any hope that Trump and Rohani would meet during the week as had been speculated. Rohani said: “On what basis and criteria can we enter into an agreement with an administration misbehaving like this?”

Trump in his address also assailed OPEC, whose members include Iran as well as US allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, saying the cartel and its members were raising oil prices.

“OPEC and OPEC nations are as usual ripping off the rest of the world and I don’t like it. Nobody should like it,” Trump said. “We defend many of these nations for nothing and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices. Not good.

“We want them to stop raising prices. We want them to start lowering prices and they must contribute substantially to military protection from now on. We are not going to put up with it -- these horrible prices -- much longer.”

Trump has repeatedly blamed OPEC for increasing oil prices, although some experts say the spike resulted from high demand and Trump’s intention to reinstate sanctions on Iran’s oil sector. Trump has not said how he would respond to OPEC pricing although later in his speech he said the United States would cut off foreign aid to antagonists.

“We are taking a hard look at US foreign assistance,” Trump said. “Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”

Much of Trump’s 35-minute address covered familiar territory but an unexpected turn happened early in his speech when Trump boasted: “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

When the delegates laughed, Trump smiled and said: “Didn’t expect that reaction but that’s OK.” The delegates laughed and applauded.