Trump to hail Iranian people as a threat to regime’s status quo

While President Donald Trump has a penchant for going off-script in his speeches, the Iran remarks in particular were carefully considered, according to an official. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

09.18.2017 – POLITICO – By NAHAL TOOSI – NEW YORK — President Donald Trump will give special attention to the Iranian people during his speech Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly — signaling that he sees them as not only separate from their Islamist government, but as a threat to its survival, a senior administration official said.

Trump’s speech will be his first before the General Assembly and his first face-to-face encounter with a truly global audience. It comes as the president mulls ways to quit the internationally negotiated nuclear deal with Iran.

According to the official, Trump’s speech also will tackle in tough terms the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program and countries, such as China, that “enable” the regime in Pyongyang; the need for other countries to share more of the burden in dealing with global challenges; and the importance of respecting national sovereignty.

Trump has a penchant for going off-script and making last-minute changes in his speeches. But the Iran remarks in particular were carefully considered, the official added in a call with reporters Monday afternoon.

“It will be fair to say that this speech, one of the strategic implications of the speech is to point out that one of the greatest threats to the endurance of the status quo of Iran is the Iranian people themselves,” the official said. There is “a lot of strategic thought in the speech as to how to separate the government from the people of Iran.”

Past U.S. presidents have also appealed directly to the Iranian people, a youthful and well-educated group that at times bristles at the oppressive rules of the government in Tehran. In 2006, President George W. Bush used his U.N. speech to assure Iranians that he wanted a peaceful resolution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, adding that he hoped they would one day “live in freedom, and America and Iran can be good friends.”

But such American appeals can be tricky to pull off. Many Iranians, still smarting over a 1953 U.S.-backed coup in their country, are averse to even a hint of interference from Washington. And the Iranian government could cast Trump’s outreach as a nefarious plot to spread unrest or even revolution.

Trump has given two major foreign policy speeches since taking office, one in Saudi Arabia and one in Poland.

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