Trump urges all countries to work together to isolate Iran

Supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to the streets of Teheran last Saturday to celebrate his victory. The cleric, who was first elected in 2013, won 57 per cent of the vote in the presidential election last Friday.
Supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to the streets of Teheran last Saturday to celebrate his victory. The cleric, who was first elected in 2013, won 57 per cent of the vote in the presidential election last Friday.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS
Supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to the streets of Teheran last Saturday to celebrate his victory. The cleric, who was first elected in 2013, won 57 per cent of the vote in the presidential election last Friday.
Supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to the streets of Teheran last Saturday to celebrate his victory. The cleric, who was first elected in 2013, won 57 per cent of the vote in the presidential election last Friday.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS

US President accuses Islamic republic of fuelling the fires of sectarian conflict and terror

RIYADH • United States President Donald Trump yesterday called on all countries to work together to isolate Iran, accusing the Islamic republic of fuelling "the fires of sectarian conflict and terror".

"Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it," he said.

In a speech at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh attended by many leaders of the Muslim world, Mr Trump said that Iran was providing funding for arms and training militias that were spreading destruction and chaos. He also blamed Iran for bolstering President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, allowing him to commit unspeakable crimes during the country's civil war.

Mr Trump's views were earlier shared by Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who accused regional Iran of exporting extremist Islamic movements to the world.

"The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism since the (Ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeini revolution" in 1979, King Salman said in a speech to leaders at the gathering. "We did not know terrorism and extremism until the Khomeini revolution reared its head," he said.

A day earlier, the US said it hoped Mr Hassan Rouhani, Iran's newly re-elected president, will halt his country's support for "destabilising forces", end ballistic missile tests and carry out democratic reforms during his second term.

"We hope that if Rouhani wanted to change Iran's relationship with the rest of the world, those are the things he could do," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Riyadh, where he was accompanying Mr Trump.

Mr Rouhani - a cleric who, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, broke the taboo of holding direct talks with the United States and reached an international deal in 2015 to curb Iran's nuclear programme in return for relief from economic sanctions - won 57 per cent of the vote in last Friday's election.

He defeated Mr Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric and acolyte of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran's complex, hybrid system of theocratic and republican elements.

In another boost to the reformist camp, Iran's reformists swept to power in Teheran's city council, winning all 21 seats and knocking the conservatives from power, local media reported yesterday.

Mr Trump's administration is likely to keep putting pressure on Iran over its weapons programmes, as well as what it sees as Teheran's efforts to destabilise the Middle East, said former US officials and analysts.

Mr Tillerson said the US hopes Mr Rouhani will "begin a process of dismantling Iran's network of terrorism", ending its financing of terrorist groups and ceasing to provide them with personnel and logistical support "and everything they provide to these destabilising forces that exist in this region". He added: "We also hope that he puts an end to their ballistic missile testing."

He also called on Mr Rouhani to establish free speech and freedom of organisation in Iran, but made no mention of the need for such rights in Saudi Arabia - underscoring the trade-offs that the Trump administration is willing to accept to rally Sunni Arab states in the fight against Teheran.

Despite the nuclear deal, the US still considers Iran a "state sponsor of terrorism" for its support of groups such as Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim militia.

Mr Rouhani's re-election is likely to make it harder for the Trump administration to galvanise international support for European Union and United Nations sanctions or other tough action, analysts said.

REUTERS, NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Trump urges all countries to work together to isolate Iran'. Print Edition | Subscribe