On the campaign trail, President Trump often said “the world is laughing at us.”
When he hit the United Nations General Assembly to deliver a speech on Tuesday to the assembly of 192 member nations’ leaders, his campaign warning proved prophetic.
Trump opened up his speech boasting that “in less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”
That declaration was greeted by a rare wave of audible laughter that rippled through the crowd of world leaders and diplomats.
“I didn’t expect that reaction,” Trump said, “but that’s OK.”
Trump proceeded, looking a bit subdued, to hand threats and praise to democracies and tyrants alike, while laying out a vision of a world in which “strong, sovereign nations” freely pursue their own national interests.
“I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions,” Trump said. “The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereign rights in return.”
Last year, Trump had made headlines by threatening North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as “a Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” and saying the U.S. was prepared to “totally destroy North Korea.”
On Tuesday, he took credit for the diplomacy with Kim that followed those remarks, including the summit he held with Kim in Singapore in June.
“We had highly productive conversations and meetings,” Trump said.
Trump didn’t specifically threaten to destroy anyone this time, but he did issue warnings to Iran, Syria, Venezuela and China. He spent considerable time on Iran’s “corrupt” leaders, whom he blamed for fueling the fighting in Syria’s ongoing civil war, and destabilizing much of the Middle East.
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” he said. “They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations.”
Trump pledged that an American campaign of economic pressure on Iran would continue, and that his administration would work to pressure other countries not to buy Iranian oil exports.
He also took a swipe at oil exporting countries following a recent upswing in global energy prices, threatening to lift any American military security assurances if they don’t figure out how to cut prices.
Crude prices hit a four-year peak on Tuesday, partly due to the threat of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
The 15 oil-producing nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, are “ripping off” the world, he said.
“We are not going to put up with it, these horrible prices, much longer,” Trump said. “We defend many of these nations for nothing.”
Trump praised the government of Saudi Arabia for its reforms earlier in his speech, the largest and most influential member of the OPEC oil cartel, with the most spare production capacity. Trump didn’t explain that discrepancy.
Trump applied similar pressure to members of the NATO military alliance last year, before eventually, if chaotically, reaching a joint formal policy agreement last summer.
Cover image: President Donald Trump waits to address the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)