Trump boasts of US might, draws head shakes at UN

  • 25 Sep 2018

US President Donald Trump is laughed at after boasting of his record during his address to the annual gathering of UN heads of state. Trump slams Iran, hails North Korean leader, and says International Criminal Court has "no legitimacy."

US President Donald Trump during his address at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly asserts American independence from the international body. ( Reuters )

President Donald Trump delivered a sharp rebuke of multinational authority at the United Nations on Tuesday, drawing headshakes and even laughter from fellow world leaders as he boasted of his administration's "achievements" and America's economic and military might.

Trump arrived late, forcing a last-minute scheduling switch, then received polite applause but also blank stares as he took his blustery brand of "America First" policies to the annual General Assembly.

Speaking in triumphal terms, Trump approached the address as an annual report to the world on his country's progress since his inauguration. 

He crowed that in "less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country."

Rather than applaud or indicate they were impressed, the audience began to chuckle and some broke into outright laughter. Trump appeared briefly flustered before joking that it was not the reaction he expected but "that's all right."

No apologies

The moment only reinforced Trump's isolation among allies and foes alike, as his nationalistic policies have created rifts with erstwhile partners and cast doubt in some circles about the reliability of American commitments around the world.

Trump seized his opportunity to assert American independence from the international body. 

He was unapologetic about his decisions to engage with the erstwhile pariah North Korea, remove the US from the international Iran nuclear accord and object to UN programmes he believes are contrary to American interests.

"We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism," Trump said.

TRT World's Nicole Johnston reports with more from New York.

'ICC has no legitimacy'

He referenced a long list of UN initiatives, from the International Criminal Court to the Human Rights Council, that his administration is working to undermine.

"As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority," he said. 

The US is boycotting the Human Rights Council, arguing it overlooks abuses by some and serves as a venue for anti-American and anti-Israeli action.

Trump's denunciation of globalism drew murmurs from the room that stands as the very embodiment of the notion.

Other tense moments included his criticism of Germany's pursuit of a direct energy pipeline from Russia, which drew a dismissive headshake from a member of the US ally's delegation. 

His mention of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar all in one breath, was received by stone-faced Saudi officials. 

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been boycotting Doha since last year as part of a political dispute tearing apart the typically clubby Gulf Arab nations.

Trump targets Iran

Trump also said US is working with gulf nations, Jordan and Egypt to set up regional strategic alliance and Washington will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime in Syria.

TRT World's Christine Pirovolakis reports.

Trump also targeted Iran saying its leaders "sow chaos, death and destruction."

"... they plunder the nation's resources to enrich themselves and spread mayhem in Middle East and far beyond .... They have embezzled billions of dollars."

While Trump specifically thanked Jordan for hosting Syrian refugees at the UNGA, he failed to mention Turkey, which hosts more than 3.5 million refugees, by far the biggest number in the world. 

'World is laughing at us'

The laughter in the first moments of the address evoked a campaign line Trump frequently deployed against his predecessor Barack Obama — who embraced international engagement — suggesting that due to weak American leadership, "the world is laughing at us."

In 2014, Trump tweeted, "We need a President who isn't a laughing stock to the entire World. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!"

In addition to the keynote speech, Trump is to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council on the topic of countering nuclear proliferation on Wednesday.