WASHINGTON — The United States is encouraging other U.N. Security Council countries to set aside the nuclear deal loathed by President Donald Trump and focus on cracking down on Iran’s missile and other non-nuclear transgressions, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday.
Haley, who brought fellow Security Council ambassadors on a field trip to Washington, suggested that a concerted global effort to punish Iran for violating Security Council resolutions on ballistic missiles could persuade Trump it was worthwhile to remain in the nuclear deal. She noted that France, a key member of the group that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal, had recently “started hitting” Iran rhetorically for violating ballistic missile resolutions.
“It’s working,” Haley said after meeting with Trump and the other ambassadors. “They’re starting to realize, ‘If we don’t start talking about the violations, if we don’t call them out, then the U.S. is going to say this whole thing is a sham.’”
An outspoken critic of Iran, Haley brought the other Security Council envoys to a U.S. military base in Washington to view missile parts that the U.S. calls evidence of Iran’s illicit transfer of prohibited missiles to Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Trump administration maintains that fragments from those missiles, recovered in Saudi Arabia after being launched from Yemen by the Houthis, contain markings proving they were Iranian-made, though some security experts have questioned whether the evidence is foolproof.
Haley’s bid to persuade key nations about Iranian misbehaviour comes as world leaders fret about the future of the Iran deal, which Trump has threatened to scuttle unless it can be improved to his liking. With dim prospects for re-opening the deal, Trump’s administration has instead been looking to add requirements to the U.S. law governing implementation of the deal so that sanctions, waived as part of the deal, could be put back in place if Iran continues with non-nuclear activity that the U.S. deems unacceptable.
The Trump administration has also been trying to persuade the European nations that negotiated the deal with the Obama administration to accept side deals under which they would join the U.S. in re-imposing sanctions if Iran continues ballistic missile testing or refuses U.N. inspections of sensitive sites. Trump’s threats to rip up the painstakingly negotiated deal have become a key point of tension between the U.S. and European nations.
China and Russia, two Security Council nations that are part of the nuclear deal, have been particularly reluctant to impose additional conditions on Iran, and have cast doubt on U.S. allegations that Tehran is funneling weapons to the Houthis to be used against U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia. Haley said that skepticism came across as their ambassadors viewed the missile parts on display in Washington.
“The Chinese just took notes,” Haley said. “The Russians questioned the missiles, how they got to Yemen.”
Haley’s message to the Russians: “How do you dispute this? It’s got ‘Made in Iran’ welded on it,” she said, referring figuratively to markings on the missiles that U.S. defence officials say suggest Iranian origin.
During the daylong visit, Haley took ambassadors to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with national security adviser H.R. McMaster and to lunch at the White House with Trump, where discussions focused on international hotspots such as Syria, North Korea and terrorism.
Each ambassador had the chance to take a photo with the president — including Russia’s envoy to the U.N., who took the president up on the opportunity, Haley said.
She said several ambassadors later conveyed to her a similar impression of the president: “He wasn’t anything like what we see on TV.”