Haley to press UN Security Council on Iran after Trump decision

Bloomberg |Kambiz Foroohar:  Nikki Haley will seek to focus world attention on Iran’s 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, will use a Wednesday Security Council meeting 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 Al-Assad, while the majority of other participants will try to keep the focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues, especially settlements in the West Bank.

The meeting will be the first public effort to gauge international support for the U.S. position on Iran after Trump declined to certify a 2015 nuclear deal, also 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. He threatened to terminate the accord unless parties to the deal address what he considers its key shortcomings.

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 the terms spelled out in 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 UN. 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.”

The Security Council has kept a critical focus on 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 “anti-Israel bias” at the UN.

“Nowhere has the UN’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,” said François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the UN. “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.”