U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley criticized the UN Security Council on the topic of Middle East, after her first meeting in February, for an “anti-Israel bias.” She wants to use the organization’s monthly meeting on Thursday, to turn the focus from Israel to Iran, the Trump administration’s latest target.
Haley holds the rotating presidency of the United Nations’ top decision-making body for April, and she plans to use the meeting to discuss “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” and Tehran’s role in Yemen and Syria, as well as its support for Hezbollah. She sees these topics as central to the actualization of peace in the Middle East.
After the February meeting Haley said, “Incredibly, the UN Department of Political Affairs has an entire department devoted to Palestinian affairs. There is no division devoted to the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, Iran.”
This past week, the Trump administration aimed sharp criticism at Iran, following previous warnings to Syria and North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tore into the 2015 nuclear agreement between the P5+1+EU and Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that curbs Iran’s nuclear program, on Wednesday. He stated that it only delays the day Iran will get a nuclear weapon and “completely ignored” its other actions.
It will be difficult to get the 15-member Security Council to change its focus. The U.S. and five other world powers joined Iran in signing the 2015 deal, and in a message to Congress late Tuesday, Tillerson acknowledged that Iran has delivered so far on its end of the deal. Still, the U.S. will review whether to reimpose economic sanctions that were eased under the accord, he said. However, if the U.S. decides to breach the accord, it would cause conflict with global powers, including European allies, China and Russia, who support it. Meanwhile, U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, are angered by the deal.
Israel has been viewed with a critical focus over the years by The Security Council. Arab nations, including those who are U.S. allies in the region, will resist a shift in that focus.
Monthly reports on the “Palestinian question” have been received since 2000, and they have held a debate on the topic each quarter since 2010. Quarterly reports on Israel’s expansion of housing settlements are now required under a resolution. Former President Barack Obama allowed the council to pass that measure by having the U.S. abstain rather than exercise its veto power during the closing weeks of his administration.
The UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov of Bulgaria, will present Thursday’s report.
Haley’s message may be lost under the questions about President Trump’s approach to Iran.
Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington said, “The Trump administration needs a grand plan on how to curb Iran’s influence, and right now I don’t see a plan.”
Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at Brookings Institute in Washington stated that the U.S. seeks “to portray Iran as a criminal enterprise, not just as another bad country but as a rogue state that is engaged in horrible crimes across the region,” and added, “We are moving from a position of accommodation to one of confrontation across multiple fronts.” Maloney said further, “Building a broad consensus is tough.”
On his tour of the Middle East, Defense Secretary James Mattis, said Wednesday in Riyadh, that the U.S. will “reinforce Saudi Arabia’s resistance to Iran’s mischief and make you more effective with your military.”
Although Haley has the leadership role this month, any resolution condemning Iran’s regional influence is unlikely to pass because Tehran holds an alliance with Russia, who holds veto power in the Security Council.