Nikki Haley urged the U.N. Security Council to consider a wide range of Iran’s “destabilizing” actions in the Middle East in an early test of whether President Donald Trump’s toughening position on the Islamic Republic is alienating allies and leaving the U.S. isolated internationally.
Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, used a Security Council meeting Wednesday on “the situation in the Middle East” to once again take on Tehran’s ballistic-missile program and its support for Hezbollah and Syrian ruler Bashar Assad. But most of the other participants sought to focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues, especially Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.
The meeting was the first public effort to gauge support for the U.S. position on Iran after Trump declined to certify the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, on Oct. 13. Trump, making a determination required under U.S. law every 90 days, said the agreement with Iran and five other nations wasn’t serving U.S. national security interests, though he stopped short of quitting the accord entirely.
“Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat,” Haley told the Security Council. “Iran must be judged in totality of its destructive and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise is foolish.”
Despite Trump’s criticisms, U.S. allies have said they continue to back the agreement, pointing to International Atomic Energy Agency assessments that Iran has met its requirements under the accord. The agreement, negotiated during the Obama administration, was intended to ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Europe’s position hasn’t changed since Trump’s speech, said Olof Skoog, Sweden’s ambassador to the U.N. Skoog said the Middle East debate should focus on the peace process and not the nuclear deal.
“The nuclear agreement is underpinned by UN Security Council resolutions. It’s clear where we stand,” Skoog said. “The EU is determined to preserve the JCPOA as a key pillar of the international nonproliferation architecture.”
Representatives of Japan and the U.K. said Wednesday that they continued to support the Iran accord and that all of the participating nations should continue to abide by its provisions.
In a swipe at Haley, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said he wondered if “some delegates” were confused about the agenda item. “The fact that some delegations did not mention the word ‘Palestine’ saddens us,” he said.
The Security Council has maintained a critical stance toward Israel for years, and Arab nations, including U.S. allies, have resisted shifting that emphasis. Israel’s settlement policies are routinely criticized at the Security Council.
During her confirmation hearings in January, Haley said one of her main goals was to change the “anti-Israel bias” at the U.N.
“Nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel,” she said at the hearing. The U.S. envoy frequently criticizes Iran’s regional role, its testing of ballistic missiles and human rights violations. In July, she helped persuade France, Germany and the U.K. to sign a letter of protest to the Security Council about Iran’s “threatening and provocative” launch of a rocket that can carry a satellite into space.
But this time, France and the U.K. have signaled they will focus less on Iran and more on the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
“For some countries this is an opportunity to go beyond the peace process itself to describe the situation in region — some countries might do that,” François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the UN, said before Wednesday’s hearing. “For others it’s also a great opportunity to focus precisely on the peace process, what needs to be done, and settlement activity. As for France, we will focus on the Middle East peace process, but I cannot say I will not mention other issues as well.”
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Kambiz Foroohar