On August 28, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington gave its Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Statesmanship Award to Nikki R. Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. After accepting the award, Haley joined FDD President Clifford D. May for a conversation about American foreign policy from her vantage point.
May praised Haley for withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, which, he said, is "often joined by the worst most egregious violators of human rights in the world so that they can be immune from criticism and so they can criticize others …”
Haleyreplied that before the decision to withdraw, her administration had explored the possibility of reforming the Council — “and what we found were there were many countries that were embarrassed by it. Many thought we needed to reform it, but they would only tell me that behind closed doors.” She said the decision to ultimately leave the Council stemmed from the view that the U.S. presence lent it a credibility it otherwise did not deserve — “because you can’t be the reason that something is given credit and said to be good when Venezuela is on it.”
Asked to share her impressions of Turtle Bay, Haley said that she was struck early on by a disproportionate focus on Israel’s faults: “I saw literally how abusive all of those countries were being to Israel in a way that was pathetic, really, I had no choice but to get up and say this is completely wrong. It’s like that kid in the schoolyard that gets bullied and everybody is bullying the kid just because they think it makes them stronger.” Haley felt that in demanding the UN grapple with other crises in the Middle East in addition to Israeli-Palestinian matters, she had opened the possibility of new, potentially constructive discussions.
Among outcomes of this effort, she said, was a more honest discussion at the UN of the immorality of the use of human shields. “You want to make this very clear, who is to blame when human shields are killed,” she said. “Iran is behind so much of the problem with human shields. If you look at the Houthis in Yemen, if you look at what we’re dealing with Hezbollah and Hamas. Whether it’s in Gaza, whether it’s in Lebanon, all of the areas where we have to deal with human shields, Iran is behind it.”
Haley also expressed satisfaction at the U.S. withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal. “What I find really puzzling is when you see the Europeans turn a blind eye to terrorism taking place in Europe that they know the Iranians are behind. When they see what’s happened, the carnage, the mass murders, the genocide in the Middle East, that Iran is behind … and they actually protect the Iranians. … They end up as apologists for all sorts of things which they don’t really need to do.”
Asked about the crises in Syria, Haley said America’s European partners were insufficiently attuned to the threat or Iranian expansionism their, which she dubbed “neoimperialism.” “Even neocolonialism, since they are resettling people into parts of Syria. Sunnis are beind displaced and Shia moved in.” She described Iran-backed militias composed of Afghan, Uzbeki, and Pakistani fighters. “We have to get them out of Syria,” she said. “[And] we need to come to a political agreement in Yemen that gets the Houthis to go away.”
* Middle East specialist Joseph Braude is the author of Broadcasting Change: Arabic Media as a Catalyst for Liberalism (Rowman & Littlefield). He is Advisor to the Al-Mesbar Center for Research and Studies and tweets@josephbraude.