In her first session holding the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley tried to turn the spotlight from Israel to Iran, the latest target of the Trump administration’s tough talk. It wasn’t easy.
“If we are speaking honestly about conflict in the Middle East, we need to start with the chief culprit, Iran, and its partner militia, Hezbollah,” Haley told the Security Council Thursday. “For decades they have conducted terrorist acts across the region.”
For the past two weeks, Haley had encouraged nations attending the quarterly open meeting on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” to tackle Tehran’s role in Yemen and Syria and its support for Hezbollah, topics she sees as more central to the theme of Middle East peace.
Few nations appeared to go along with Haley’s attempt to shift the discussion. In the early hours of the debate, Iran was seldom raised.
We need “to achieve justice based on the two-state solution in accordance with Security Council resolutions,” said Egypt’s Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The current situation has become a “regressive status quo,” he added.
The envoy from Bolivia — which has a rotating position on the Security Council — said without naming the U.S. that unrest in the Middle East stemmed in part from policies of “regime change” and “preemptive war” by global powers. He, too, then turned to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Haley’s effort comes in a week in which the Trump administration has aimed sharp criticism at Iran, after earlier warnings to Syria and North Korea. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tore into the Islamic Republic’s 2015 agreement with world powers that curbed its nuclear program, saying it only delayed the day when Iran will get a nuclear weapon and “completely ignored” the Islamic Republic’s other actions.
Iran joined the U.S. and five other world powers in signing the 2015 deal, and Tillerson acknowledged in a message to Congress April 18 that Iran has delivered so far on its end of the deal. Nonetheless, he said, the U.S. will review whether to reimpose economic sanctions that were eased under the accord.
The Security Council has kept an often critical focus on Israel for years, and Arab nations — including U.S. allies in the region — resisted shifting that emphasis. Israel’s settlement policies were roundly criticized at the Security Council.