World

The annual U.N. General Assembly has generated sometimes powerful comments by world leaders on issues involving North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and the flight of minority Muslims from Myanmar as more than 100 heads of state and government gather in New York.

What's happening:

Iran

U.N. chief urges Iran's president to release detained 81-year-old Iranian American

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Steven Governo / Associated Press)
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Steven Governo / Associated Press)

During his meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Rouhani to secure the release of detained Iranian American Baquer Namazi on humanitarian grounds, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday.  

Namazi is a retired official with the United Nations Children's Fund who has been imprisoned in Iran for nearly two years.

He traveled to Iran in 2015 to try to secure the release of his son, Siamak Namazi, a U.S. citizen and businessman who had been arrested four months earlier.  

Both were convicted of espionage last year and sentenced to 10 years in Tehran's Evin Prison. 

The 81-year-old Namazi's ailing health in prison has been a major cause for concern. Before his arrest, Namazi underwent triple bypass surgery. 

In addition to discussing Namazi's case in their meeting on Monday, Guterres and Rouhani also discussed continued implementation of Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement. 

Protesters beaten and removed during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech at New York hotel

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Kayhan Ozer / Associated Press)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Kayhan Ozer / Associated Press)

Violence broke out during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech in New York this week when protesters were beaten and removed, according to videos that began circulating on social media Friday.

It was the second such confrontation in recent months involving the Turkish leader, who has attracted widespread criticism for crackdowns on journalists, human rights advocates and political adversaries.

The latest incident occurred as Erdogan was giving a speech Thursday at the Marriott Marquis Hotel for an event sponsored by the Turkish American National Steering Committee.

Video footage shows protesters being pushed, punched and dragged out of the venue. 

It is unclear how the confrontation began, but in some of the video footage protesters can be heard interrupting Erdogan's speech and shouting, "Terrorist!"

Another video shows a man wearing a white T-shirt being punched in the face as a group of men wearing suits take him outside. 

In the background, Erdogan supporters can be heard shouting the president's name. 

It is not clear whether the men seen confronting protesters were Erdogan's bodyguards, hotel security or someone else entirely.

A similar situation took place in May when Erdogan's bodyguards attacked and injured a handful of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's house in Washington.  

The State Department issued a statement shortly after that incident saying the "conduct of Turkish security personnel ... was deeply disturbing," and "violence is never an appropriate response to free speech." 

Iran

Iran unveils new missile as President Rouhani vows his country will defend itself

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, reviews a military parade on Sept. 22, 2017, the anniversary of Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran. (Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, reviews a military parade on Sept. 22, 2017, the anniversary of Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran. (Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press)

Iran unveiled a new medium-range ballistic missile on Friday as President Hassan Rouhani vowed that his country would defend itself at any cost from aggression by the United States and Israel.

Speaking at a military parade, Rouhani said Iran “will not ask for anyone’s permission to defend our land” and would continue to strengthen its missile program.

Rouhani’s comments, broadcast on the anniversary of Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran, appeared to be aimed at President Trump, who sharply criticized Iran in a speech this week at the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump called on world powers to pressure Iran to stop developing missiles and cease supporting regional militant groups. U.S. officials say such “malign activities” go against the spirit of the 2015 agreement under which Iran won relief from international sanctions in exchange for shelving its nuclear program.

Trump has criticized the nuclear deal and said it must be strengthened, or the U.S. could walk away.

Rouhani described the U.S. and Israel as the main destabilizing forces in the Middle East and said the speech by Trump and a later address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were a “clear indicator of the vicious nature” of the two countries, according to the Tasnim news agency.

His comments came as the Iranian military introduced a new ballistic missile with a 1,200-mile range, capable of reaching Israel and carrying multiple warheads.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the aerospace division of the elite Revolutionary Guards, said the defense ministry had manufactured the Khorramshahr missile and that it would soon become operational, Tasnim reported.

The U.N. World Food Program is seeing substantial funding, but it's still not enough to meet global needs

U.N. World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley. (Monica Schipper / Getty Images)
U.N. World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley. (Monica Schipper / Getty Images)

Funding for the United Nations World Food Program is substantial compared with other times in the agency's history, but more is needed to meet global needs, the agency's executive director said.

The United States is responsible for more than half the funding, David Beasley, executive director of the program, said this week during side briefings at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“That clearly indicates that the United States is not backing down [from] the humanitarian side of international issues," Beasley told reporters.

Beasley, a Republican and former South Carolina governor who was nominated by President Trump to head the world's largest food agency, said his first objective in assuming the position in April “was to protect U.S. funding and other major donor funding at a time period where we were facing the worst humanitarian crisis.”

Of the WFP's $3.2 billion in funding,  $1.7 billion is from the United States, Beasley said. Also of note was that funding for the WFP was passed with bipartisan support from legislators, he said.

“To see them find something that they could rally around, [something] positive … to help hungry children, it was a very significant message to the world,” Beasley said.

In July, at the Group of 20 summit in Germany, Trump pledged $639 million more in food and humanitarian assistance for fiscal year 2018 for South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen — countries hard hit by famine.

“That was a major shift,” Beasley said. “I feel like we’ve turned a great corner in [that] America’s not going to back down. Now the president is saying the U.N. truly has a purpose. It needs to be reformed. Everyone agrees with that.”

Beasley said that even though the WFP has substantial donations, “the needs are not being met.”

“The gulf states with all of their wealth should be funding the humanitarian crisis in their region of the world: Syria, Iraq, Yemen," Beasley said, noting that the U.S. and Britain were among the largest donors helping Syrians, whose country remains devastated by civil war. “It’s absolutely inexcusable.”

Beasley also emphasized the need for the international community to do more to end the conflicts that have contributed to so many people being left hungry or starving. 

North Korea

While Trump threatens to 'destroy' North Korea, Russia and China play war games in the East

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Host photo agency)
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Host photo agency)

While President Trump was threatening to “totally destroy North Korea” this week in his address to the United Nations, the navies of Russia and China were engaged a maritime joint exercise less than 100 miles from the North Korean border with Russia.

The Russia-China exercises were the second this year and part of the so-called Joint-Sea 2017 program. The first drills in the exercise were held in the Baltic Sea in July and were closely watched by NATO and European countries, who were already on edge about Russia’s recent military muscle-flexing.

This week’s drills started in the Russian Far East port city of Vladivostok, home base of the Russian Pacific Fleet, and will continue for eight days on both land and sea. Submarine rescue and anti-submarine drills will take place in the Sea of Japan and spread into the Sea of Okhotsk, just north of Japan.

While Russia and China have been holding joint military exercises since 2012, the timing of this part of the Joint-Sea 2017 drills is significant. Washington’s rhetoric has become increasingly hostile toward the North Korean government as it has continued to disregard demands that it halt testing of nuclear weapons. Both Moscow and Beijing have significant economic interests in North Korea and have thus far had subdued responses to calls from the White House for stepped-up action against North Korea.

On Thursday, Trump announced additional economic sanctions targeting North Korea.

Russia has responded to Trump’s tough rhetoric by urging more diplomatic dialogue. Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that pressuring North Korea with threats was “misguided and futile" if the goal is to get North Korean President Kim Jung Un to back down.

China, North Korea’s biggest trade partner, has balked at  U.S. suggestions that it should step up  pressure on North Korean’s authoritative, hermit state to prevent a nuclear standoff.

This week, the U.S. and South Korea also held joint maritime exercises in the Pacific region, where they conducted bombing drills.

Russia and China’s exercises in the Pacific started on Sept. 18, just a few days after Russia began a massive joint military drill with neighboring Belarus called Zapad 2017 on the border between those two former Soviet states.

NATO expressed concerns about the lack of transparency from Russia about the size and scope of the exercises. Russia is a signing member of the Vienna Document, which stipulated that any member who holds exercises with more than 13,000 troops must invite other members to observe. While Russia said there were only 12,700 troops participating, Western military analysts speculated that there could be as many as 100,000, based on similar Russian military drills in the past, in which more troops showed up than originally planned.

Russia is not required by the Vienna agreement to invite international observers to military drills held east of the Ural mountains.

We're close to wiping out polio but two obstacles stand in the way, officials say

A health worker administers a polio vaccination to a child in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sept. 19. (AKBER/EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)
A health worker administers a polio vaccination to a child in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sept. 19. (AKBER/EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)

Significant strides have been made in halting the spread of polio and global health officials are on the verge of eradicating the crippling and potentially deadly disease — but two challenges stand in the way, according to international health officials and children’s advocates.

One is the lack of accessibility to particular areas in countries where the disease is prevalent, said Reza Hossaini, director of polio eradication at the United Nations Children’s Fund. Transmission of polio has never stopped in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan — where there are areas of conflict, insurgents have control, or infrastructure inadequacies limit access.

The other obstacle is the continued resistance of some parents to have their children vaccinated.

A lack of political commitment, religious norms and rumors about the possible effects of vaccinations, such as the belief in some Pakistani tribal areas that immunization causes male sterility, could all play a role, health officials said.

“Understanding that social dynamic, understanding what the underlying causes are is what we try to address,” said Hossaini, who spoke during a briefing to reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where the theme of discussions is “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet.”

The UNICEF official said that during the final stages of trying to eradicate the disease, the effort has come down to literally going to each house.

“We don’t do door-to-door anymore …  we do room-to-room, because sometimes you have a silent resistance,” Hossaini said. “The parents would send the older kids, but [for] the younger kids, they would say we don't have a child at home. So yes, it still remains a challenge in a very small area.”

As recently as 30 years ago, 1,000 children were paralyzed by polio every single day, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership of UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

There were only 37 reported cases of polio in 2016, according to the WHO.

'No hope on the horizon' for Yemen, U.N. humanitarian official says

A Yemeni girl receives treatment amid a cholera outbreak at a hospital in Sana, Yemen, in September 2017. (ARHAB/EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)
A Yemeni girl receives treatment amid a cholera outbreak at a hospital in Sana, Yemen, in September 2017. (ARHAB/EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)

Devastated by conflict, widespread cholera and the total collapse of infrastructure, Yemen has reached the precipice of a humanitarian catastrophe and there is “no hope” for resolving the crisis anytime soon.

That grim assessment of the situation in the poverty-stricken Arab nation came during media briefings this week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, where the theme of discussions is “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet.”

“The prescription for the future at the very best is bleak,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N.’s resident humanitarian coordinator in Yemen. “It’s a disaster. I believe I’ll be coming back to [the U.N. General Assembly] next year with bigger numbers, and more desperate a situation … because there's nothing on the horizon that looks like it's going to go anywhere soon.”

Two years of conflict between pro-government forces and Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels have laid the groundwork for unhealthy conditions, according to humanitarian aid workers. The United States has been criticized for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arabian military coalition in support of Yemen’s government and has been accused of killing civilians in indiscriminate bombings.

“Civilians have borne the brunt of any pain and suffering,” McGoldrick said. “It’s one of the worst international humanitarian law violations situations. The parties to the conflict are completely indifferent to their obligations under the Geneva Conventions [rules that protect people who are not participants in the conflict].

McGoldrick painted a dire picture of conditions in the nation of 27 million people, of which about 3 million have been displaced. Among the horrifying facts: At least 7 million people don’t know when their next meal will come and what it might be. About 400,000 children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished and every 10 minutes a child dies. Fifty percent of the health structures don’t work, while 1,700 schools don't function, 30,000 health workers have not been paid salaries and 2 million children are out of school.

“There's a lost generation,” McGoldrick said. “There's a growing radicalization in the country because of absence of governance, absence of security.”

The country’s cancer center has closed, McGoldrick added. The blood banks are under pressure. Dialysis is no longer available because the machines don’t work. Treatment is lacking for diabetics.

“And all of that is having an impact on an already weakened population,” the humanitarian official said. Throughout the country, “people are dying … silent deaths,” he said.

Exacerbating the death toll is the Saudi-led coalition’s halt of all commercial traffic in and out of the international airport in the country’s capital, Sana.

As many as 10,000 Yemenis are reported to have died from critical health conditions because they could no longer travel overseas for medical treatment, according to international media reports citing local government data.

“There’s no hope on the horizon right now politically,” McGoldrick said. “So the result of that is there’s no hope on the horizon for the humanitarian situation, because we cannot solve this problem. This is a political problem."

Taiwan isn't even asking this year to be let into the U.N.: 'Why bang your head against the door?'

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (Taiwan's presidential office)
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (Taiwan's presidential office)

Taiwan has its own military, currency and immigration controls. Despite these hallmarks of nationhood, the island of 23 million people cannot join the United Nations or observe the events of U.N. organizations.

After more than 10 years of trying, Taiwan has run out of applications to get inside the United Nations itself, the U.N.-backed World Health Assembly, its climate control convention and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

All applications are dead, a Taiwanese Foreign Ministry publicist said Wednesday.

China, a veto-power-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, doesn’t want Taiwan in. Beijing views Taiwan not as a country but as part of Chinese territory. Taiwan’s legal government, the Republic of China, fled to the island after losing the Chinese civil war in the 1940s to the Communists who now rule Beijing.

Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 as China entered, welcomed by other members for its vast population and fast-growing economy. China now has more than 170 foreign allies. Taiwan has 20.

“Why bang your head against the door again and again without any hope that it will open?” asked Coen Blaauw, executive director of the Washington-based Taiwan advocacy group Formosan Assn. for Public Affairs.

Taiwanese people want more recognition for their economy, the world’s 22nd largest, according to the International Monetary Fund, and humanitarian work overseas even in countries that don’t recognize it diplomatically. Officials in Taipei hope to get U.N. data first-hand.

“It is obvious that Taiwan's exclusion from the meetings of several of the U.N.'s specialized agencies both delays Taiwan's access to critical information and deprives the international community of contributions that Taiwan can make,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank the Stimson Center.

“The U.S. and others seek to fill the gaps for Taipei by acting as a conduit, but this cannot be a fully adequate substitute,” he said.

Three successive Taiwanese presidents have asked sympathetic U.N. member states to lobby for letting it in outright or observe sub-agencies.

Under Taiwan's past president, Ma Ying-jeou, China in effect allowed Taiwan to observe annual World Health Organization assemblies, officials on the island said then, because Ma had set aside political disputes with Beijing in order to hatch an unprecedented dialogue between the two governments. Current President Tsai Ing-wen has angered China by declining to see the two sides as part of one country.

Taiwan lost its WHO assembly observer status in May. After Tsai took office, the government last year applied for permission to participate in that group, the aviation body and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

As the United Nations opened its 72nd General Assembly session Sept. 12 in New York, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying its diplomatic allies on the inside had urged U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to see Taiwan’s point and “solve the problem” of its non-access.

Last week the 6,000-member, Taipei-based civic group Taiwan United Nations Alliance emailed all 193 U.N. members with a letter saying Taiwan’s people should not be excluded since 80% of the population is “longing to be a new member,” alliance President Michael Tsai said.

The alliance drew 1,000 people to a demonstration Saturday in Washington.

The Taiwanese government, he said, should “stand up firmly” and apply for U.N. membership by writing its own letter to the secretary-general.

North Korea

Japan's leader says North Korea threat 'unprecedented,' backs U.S. stance that all options are on the table

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

If Japan has any qualms about President Trump’s confrontational rhetoric toward North Korea, its leader isn’t letting on.

“We consistently support the stance of the United States that all options are on the table,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, five days after North Korea sent a ballistic missile streaking above the Japanese archipelago — the second such overflight in less than three weeks.

Abe, speaking a day after Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to defend the United States or its allies, declared that the North’s mercurial leader, Kim Jong Un, is a greater menace than ever.

“The gravity of this threat is unprecedented,” Abe told the world body. “It is indisputably a matter of urgency.”

He said Kim had a tendency to “dismiss with a smirk” outside efforts to rein in the North’s nuclear and missile programs, and cited the North’s history of “deceiving us and buying time.”  

“It was absolutely not a lack of dialogue that gave rise to this situation,” Abe said in remarks devoted almost entirely to the North Korean threat.

Calling for international solidarity, the Japanese leader warned that “there is not much time left” to defuse the North Korean threat.

Kim has singled out U.S. ally Japan for frequent apocalyptic threats. Last week, North Korea threatened to "sink" the Japanese islands, saying Japan "no longer needed to exist near us."

Palestinian leader, at the U.N., says Israel thwarts peace efforts

 (AP)
(AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday that “Israel is not interested” in achieving peace.

“A commitment to peace by one side is not enough,” said Abbas, who listed various peace blueprints put together over the decades and accused Israel of sabotaging them all.  

The Palestinian leader spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the world body. In his speech, Netanyahu made only a brief reference to hopes for peace with all of Israel’s Arab neighbors in the region, including the Palestinians.

In his address to the chamber, the 82-year-old Palestinian leader declared that “the two-state solution is in jeopardy,” referring to the aim, long supported by Washington, for Israel and a Palestinian state to exist side by side. President Trump has been more equivocal than predecessors about such a scenario, though senior aides say it remains the U.S. goal.

Abbas also suggested that Israel was seeking to ignite a “religious war” with repeated provocations over a disputed holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City, and denounced Jewish settlement-building activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying “Israel builds wherever it wishes.”

Trump has spoken frequently and enthusiastically about prospects for Mideast peace, putting his son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of an effort to bring the two sides to the table, but if anything, the two sides' positions have hardened since the U.S. president took office.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump met with Abbas on the sidelines of the General Assembly, telling reporters as the two headed into their talks that “I think we have a very, very good chance” for achieving peace.

“Complex subject, always been considered the toughest deal of all,” Trump said, adding, “I think we have a pretty good shot, maybe the best shot ever.”

Iran

Iranian president goes after Trump, denounces 'ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric'

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Office of Iran presidency / Associated Press)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Office of Iran presidency / Associated Press)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, sharply questioned President Trump’s authority to single-handedly scrap the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear accord, saying the pact “belongs to the international community in its entirety, and not only to one or two” governments.

“It would be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics,” the Iranian president said, an apparent reference to Trump’s repeated hints —  including one delivered at the world body a day earlier — that he was poised to tear up the accord, which was negotiated between six world powers and Iran.

Trump told reporters on Wednesday he had made a decision about the pact, but did not disclose it.

Rouhani, together with then-President Obama, was a chief architect of the accord.

The speech was laced with direct and indirect denunciations of Trump, who a day earlier had referred to Iran as a "rogue nation." Without mentioning Trump by name, the Iranian leader decried “ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric” delivered in the chamber a day earlier. He singled out “the new U.S. administration” in saying it would destroy its own credibility by abrogating international agreements.

The 2-year-old nuclear agreement, negotiated by the United States, the European Union and other partners, led to the lifting of most international sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Rouhani, who won a second presidential term earlier this year, said Iran would not be the first to violate the agreement, but that it would take unspecified steps if others did so.

“We never threaten anyone, but we do not tolerate threats from anyone,” he said. “We believe in dialogue based on equal footing and mutual respect.”

Iran

Trump: 'I have decided' what to do with the Iran deal. What's that? He won't say

 (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
(Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

President Trump said Wednesday he has made a decision on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal - but didn't say if he would scrap the landmark agreement or stay in it. 

"I have decided," Trump repeated three times in response to shouted questions from reporters. When pressed on what specifically he decided, Trump smiled and said, "I'll let you know."

By his cryptic response, Trump seemed to be bringing to global diplomacy his penchant for building suspense honed during years as a reality television star. Yet as recently as Tuesday, administration officials were still preparing options for him to consider before an Oct. 15 deadline for certifying Iran's compliance with the agreement to block its work toward nuclear weaponry.

Trump made the comments as he sat down to talk with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Lotte Palace Hotel in New York City.

Trump also is meeting Wednesday with leaders of Jordan, Egypt and the United Kingdom as the United Nations General Assembly continues to meet a few blocks away.

Trump has not hidden his disdain for the Iran deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration along with England, France, Russia, China and Germany. As a candidate and since, he vowed to abandon the agreement.

Under its terms, Iran agreed to destroy or dismantle its nuclear development infrastructure in exchange for easing international sanctions.

In his first speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump called the accord "an embarrassment" for the United States and hinted he would revisit it. 

"I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. "cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program."

The U.N. Security Council endorsed the deal two years ago, and the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has repeatedly concluded that Tehran is complying with its obligations under the accord. So has Trump, twice, since he took office.

Several of Trump's close advisors have tried to convince him to stay in the deal for the next few months to give them time to work with allies to toughen some terms of the agreement. 

French President Emmanuel Macron in particular has been working with other European leaders behind the scenes on adding additional measures.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Iran is in "technical compliance" with the agreement, but said it has violated the spirit of its preamble by continuing to support terrorism and building ballistic missiles.

The U.S. has maintained sanctions on Iran related to those concerns, however. 

Under U.S. law, the Trump administration faces an Oct. 15 deadline to inform Congress that Iran following the terms of the nuclear deal.

If Trump won't certify Iran is complying, Congress will have 60 days to decide if sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program should be put back in place, an action that would effectively scrap the U.S. side of the deal.

Terrorism

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani emphasizes terrorist threats and backs new U.S. strategy

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017, in New York. (Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017, in New York. (Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday in a speech that praised U.S. plans to send thousands more troops to the country in the long-standing fight against terrorism. 

Ghani said that 16 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which resulted in a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, violence by terrorist groups remained a substantial threat in the country.

"Driven by transnational terrorist networks, criminal organizations, cyber crime and state sponsorship of terror," the violence "promises to be a decade-long threat to national security rather than a passing phenomenon," he said.

Ghani, who was elected president in 2014, has focused on bringing stability to his country and combating militant groups such as the Taliban. 

President Trump last month announced a new strategy that includes sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, in addition to about 8,400 U.S. and 5,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops there advising Afghan security forces.

"With President Trump's recent announcement of his strategy to counter terrorism and bring stability to South Asia, Afghanistan's enduring partnership with the U.S. has been renewed and redirected," Ghani said. 

Congress authorized the war in Afghanistan after the 2001 attacks. 

Before becoming president, Trump denounced the war, calling it a "terrible mistake" and tweeting in 2013 that "we should leave Afghanistan immediately." 

Netanyahu to U.N.: Iran is a menace and nuclear deal a mistake

 (AFP/Getty)
(AFP/Getty)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had little to say about prospects for peace with the Palestinians — but plenty to say about the Iran nuclear accord, which he vehemently opposes.

Netanyahu, addressing the General Assembly on its opening day Tuesday, called Iran’s nuclear ambitions a “dark shadow” and said its rulers “vow to destroy my country.” That echoed rhetoric employed a short time earlier by President Trump, who called Iran’s government a “reckless regime” and suggested the landmark 2015 accord would be revisited.

Calling yet again for the scrapping of the pact between Iran and six world powers, Netanyahu said the nuclear deal “doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb, but actually paves it.”

“Change it, or cancel it. Fix it, or nix it,” the Israeli leader challenged. “Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability.”

After discussing the Iranian nuclear accord at length, Netanyahu did refer briefly to Israel’s hopes for “peace with all our Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians.”

He said he considered Trump an ally in that effort, adding: “Together we can seize the opportunities for peace, and together we can confront the great dangers of Iran.”

Netanyahu has made clear he does not consider the General Assembly a forum friendly to Israel, and he was critical of actions including last December’s Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlement-building.

Immediately before the Israeli leader spoke, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Palestinian question the “gaping wound of the world” and called for a halt to settlement activity.

Climate ChangeIranNorth KoreaPresident Trump

France's Macron defends Iran nuclear deal and says climate pact is not up for renegotiation

In a pointed rejection of President Trump’s “America first” approach to foreign policy, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday urged world leaders to join together to confront global challenges, including war, terrorism, immigration and climate change.

“Today, more than ever, we need multilateralism,” Macron said in his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly. “Why? Because our challenges are global.”

Macron said he “profoundly respects” Trump’s decision to withdraw from a landmark agreement reached in Paris in 2015 to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But although he said the deal could be improved, he emphasized, “This accord will not be renegotiated.”

“The future of the world is that of our planet, which is in the process of taking its revenge against the foolishness of men,” he said, referring to recent hurricanes that brought devastation to parts of the Caribbean, Texas and Florida.

Macron’s appeal for collective action and dialogue between nations was in sharp contrast to a speech delivered by Trump, in which he decried a landmark nuclear disarmament deal reached with Iran in 2015 as “an embarrassment to the United States” and threatened North Korea with “total destruction.”

North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile tests present the world with an “existential” threat, Macron said. “Our responsibility, with all our partners, including China, is to bring it back to the negotiating table.”

Macron hailed the agreement reached between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., as a “solid, robust and verifiable” way to ensure  the Islamic Republic does not also arm itself with nuclear weapons.

“To denounce it would be a grave error,” he said. “Because it is a good deal, essential to peace at a time where the risk of an infernal spiral cannot be excluded.”

Modern slavery has placed millions of people in bondage in the last five years, report says

In this 2015 photo, Indian child laborers carry sacks of vegetable leftovers collected from a wholesale market to sell in their shantytown on the outskirts of Jammu, India. (Channi Anand / Associated Press)
In this 2015 photo, Indian child laborers carry sacks of vegetable leftovers collected from a wholesale market to sell in their shantytown on the outskirts of Jammu, India. (Channi Anand / Associated Press)

Global Estimates of Modern Slavery,” a new report by the Walk Free Foundation and the International Labor Organization, says 89 million people experienced some form of slavery in the last five years.

The report, published Tuesday, said an estimated 25.9 million men, women and children were forced to work against their will in 2016.

“Today, women and girls are predominantly being subjected to forced labor in domestic work and the sex industry, whereas men and boys are being subjected to forced labor in construction, in manufacturing and in fishing,” said Fiona David, the Walk Free Foundation’s executive director of global research. The foundation is working to end slavery and human trafficking.

Also, the report said 15.4 million people were confined to a marriage to which they had not consented. Most of the enslaved are women and girls, who make up 71% of the overall total of enslaved people.

The report demonstrates the challenges of achieving the United Nations’ goal of combating forced labor, modern slavery and human trafficking in all its forms by 2025. The report examines different forms of forced labor, which it said occurred in every region of the world in 2016.

The core statistics were based on national surveys involving interviews with more than 71,000 respondents across 48 countries, researchers said. It was supplemented with data from the International Organization for Migration. The report warned the numbers were conservative estimates due to the limitations of the data.

North KoreaPresident TrumpUnited States

Read President Trump's full remarks at the U.N. General Assembly

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

President Trump to General Assembly
 
North KoreaPresident Trump

Will Kim Jong Un be deterred by Trump's threat?

A television screen in Seoul, South Korea, shows President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Aug. 10. (Ahn Young Joon/Associated Press)
A television screen in Seoul, South Korea, shows President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Aug. 10. (Ahn Young Joon/Associated Press)

The North Korean ambassador to the United Nations walked out just before President Trump’s speech, so there was no immediate read-out on what he or his ultimate boss, Kim Jong Un, might have thought of the nickname “Rocket man,’’ or the warning that the United States might have to “totally destroy North Korea.’’

But North Korea watchers who have proven adept in the past at channeling the reactions of the Pyongyang regime expect a suitably incendiary response.

“Holy cow,’’ said Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst who has been following the country for two decades. “If I were Kim Jong Un, I’d think, I better accelerate this thing and finish building my nuclear weapon before it’s too late. These threats will only increase the hysteria and paranoia in North Korea.’’

 “They will threaten to destroy him [Trump] in language even more colorful than he could muster,’’ predicted Michael J. Green, a former Asia advisor to President George W. Bush. Green said, however, that Trump was right in taking a hard line to warn North Korea that the United States will not tolerate any belligerence towards its allies, South Korea and Japan.

Bruce W. Bennett of the Rand Corporation said Trump’s warning, although blunt, did not differ in substance from what has been the U.S. policy for decades. “The U.S. has always said that if it needs to defend itself or its allies against North Korean aggression, the regime will be destroyed,’’ said Bennett. “I think Trump needed to be very explicit with them."

Repeated telephone calls to the North Korean mission to the U.N. went unanswered Tuesday morning. Ambassador Ja Song Nam was seen leaving the room before Trump arrived to speak, leaving only a junior diplomat as a representative. NBC news reporters said they were told he left in order to “boycott” the speech.

 

 

IranNorth KoreaPresident Trump

Dianne Feinstein says Trump used U.N. 'as a stage to threaten war'

 (Sen. Dianne Feinstein)
(Sen. Dianne Feinstein)

One word to rule them all: 'Sovereign'

 (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The governing theme of President Trump's speech to the United Nations General Assembly could be summed up in one word: sovereignty.

In a 42-minute speech, "sovereign" and its variations appeared 21 times, most frequently in the opening and closing parts of the address.

Trump clearly rejected the emphasis that his predecessor, Barack Obama, and other Democrats have put on international institutions and multiparty agreements that restrain national sovereignty.

"The nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition," he declared -- a sentiment that many internationalists would dispute.

"Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity and peace for themselves and for the world," he said.

At the same time, as several analysts noted, Trump's respect for the sovereign decisions of independent nations did not extend to the three countries that he singled out for the most criticism -- Iran, Venezuela and North Korea -- which he threatened to "totally destroy" if they force the U.S. to "defend itself or its allies."

Those countries, Trump put in a separate category of "rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based."

"They respect neither their own citizens, nor the sovereign rights of other countries," Trump said, suggesting that, as a result, they had forfeited their own sovereign rights.
 

 

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