Donald Trump, whose political ascent has been full of firsts, on Tuesday achieved another rare feat — bringing laughter to the solemn UN General Assembly.
Delivering his address to the annual gathering of UN heads of state, Trump began in the hyperbolic style of a domestic campaign as he boasted of his record.
“In less than two years, my administration has achieved more than any administration in the history of our country,” Trump boasted, little more than a month before US congressional elections.
As assembled global dignitaries started to chuckle, Trump interrupted his prepared remarks and insisted, “So true.”
With the laughter audible, Trump smiled and said, “I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.”
He proceeded to tout low US unemployment before proceeding with the rest of his address, a hardline defense of the US right to act on its own without bowing to global rules.
Light moments are exceedingly unusual in the UN General Assembly, which follows a strict protocol in with each world leader is escorted to the rostrum for an address on issues of the day.
In 2015, Zimbabwe’s then 91-year-old strongman Robert Mugabe was met with laughter when he shouted “We are not gays!,” part of his longstanding insistence that homosexuality is non-African.
Trump called for Iran’s international isolation, prompting accusations from his Iranian counterpart that he was trying to topple his government.
Trump also lashed out at other adversaries such as Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and took aim at international institutions such as the UN-backed world court. But Trump also had warm words for the main target of his rhetoric at his UN debut last year as he praised the “courage” of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
Hours before Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani spoke from the same rostrum, Trump denounced the clerical regime in Tehran for sowing “chaos, death and destruction” as he defended his decision to ditch an internationally-brokered nuclear deal.
“We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” Trump said, alluding to Tehran’s support for Islamic militant movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah. “We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues.”
Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May, to the dismay of the other parties that had invested years in negotiations to keep Iran’s nuclear ambitions in check. In his address, Rouhani stressed Tehran’s continued commitment to the deal and ridiculed Trump as a “preposterous” leader who was himself isolated.
In a sign of how some allies are unwilling to automatically follow Trump’s lead, the five remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — announced Monday plans to keep business ties alive with Iran, staring down Washington’s move to impose sanctions.