Donald Trump’s second coming at the UN General Assembly proved less explosive than many analysts had predicted. For while Iran was singled out as the “world’s leading sponsor of terrorism” — a preferred presidential slur — his address fell far short of the anticipated verbal showdown with Tehran.
Instead, what was on show was a self-congratulatory endorsement of the America First policy that was rolled out this time last year. And just in case there remained any confusion as to what this entails in real terms, Trump made it clear. Under his stewardship the US rejects “the ideology of globalism” in favour of the “ideology of patriotism”. In short, “America is governed by Americans”. Washington’s commitment to unilateralism prevails.
Thus much of the speech was dedicated to how well the US economy has fared under this policy; defence spending, too. Indeed, the Trump vision is to have the US military become “more powerful than ever before”. All of which naturally begs the question as to the pricey cost of going it alone in an increasingly interconnected world. Not to mention who pays for this.
Of course, there exists a marked difference between unilateralism and the pursuit of isolationist politics. And this White House rejects the tenets of international cooperation and consensus. In its place comes repudiation of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) legitimacy and the de facto recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Or denouncing the impact of Chinese membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the US manufacturing industry. As well as calling on OPEC nations to cough up for American military protection as financial retribution for not lowering oil prices. This allows the US president to wash his hands of any moral or humanitarian responsibility for the future of Yemen and its children; which is framed as a regional matter. Paradoxically, however, Trump seeks to reinvent his unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear pact as being in the global interest. The re-imposing of sanctions is meant to represent American efforts to thwart Tehran’s alleged financing of terrorism.
By stark contrast, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s address to the gathering of the world’s peace-loving nations was one that paid glowing tribute to multilateralism. There was the timely reminder of how the nuclear accord belongs to the entire international community; not least because of its endorsement by UNSC resolution 2231. While reminding those present that Israel, Washington’s most important regional ally, neither adheres to international nuclear safeguards and continues to rob the Palestinians of fundamental rights.
But the most articulate rejection of America First came from Rouhani’s focusing on moderation as the fastest track to peace. “But a just and inclusive peace, not just peace for one nation, and war and turmoil for others”. Linked to this was condemnation of US manoeuvrings in the Middle East by way of deadly weapons exports which “instead of contributing peace and stability has only brought war, misery, poverty and the rise of terrorism and extremism” to the region.
When all is said and done, Iran has made a much more convincing case for its contribution to regional peace and security. The international community has been put on notice. *
Published in Daily Times, September 27th 2018.