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US failure on Tehran
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 17 - 01 - 2018

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley represents the ultra-conservative face of the Trump administration. A fiery and ambitious woman, she is disliked by many diplomats at the UN who believe she is extreme in many of her stands when it comes to representing the ultra-right wing of the US Republican Party.
She became controversial when defending Israel or talking about Iran in the UN Security Council. Her performances make her vulnerable to criticisms by the representatives of other states on the council.
The world expressed its condemnation of US President Donald Trump's decision late last year to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and Haley was not able to defend Trump's action effectively in the Security Council because too often her speeches attack other nations. She is both direct and undiplomatic in showing off her own personality.
When it comes to Iran, despite the existing concerns over this country's regional actions and the role it is playing in Syria and Yemen, Haley has failed to form an effective coalition against the regime in Tehran for the simple reason that many Western nations along with Russia and China cannot deal with her.
However, when the Iranians begin protesting on 28 December at high living costs, systematic corruption, and lack of clarity in the use of the country's wealth, their expectations of the US were different. Over the course of more than a week, over 80 cities and towns in Iran joined calls to topple the country's Islamic regime, with people chanting “death to the dictator” in a reference to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Unusually and very much for the first time, Iranians also showed nostalgia for the time before the Islamic Revolution when the country was ruled by the secular monarch Mohamed Reza Shah Pahlavi who was toppled in the winter of 1979.
The protests may have been behind Haley's asking the Security Council for an emergency meeting to discuss human rights violations in Iran and the force used against civilians demonstrating against the regime. The number of the dead has risen above 20 in the week since the protests started.
Of the 15 members of the council, nine agreed to the emergency session, which was held on 5 January to review the emergency circumstances in Iran. The Iranian public directed its gaze on the Security Council to see whether or not the world would support the protests against the regime and what the US response would be.
For the first time, Trump has become popular among protesters in Iran for supporting the Iranians' right to demonstrate and questioning the regime's regional spending and its neglect of its own people.
With no leader or back-up from a political party in Iran, Trump's tweets have led to hopes that this administration may act differently from that of former president Barack Obama in 2009 when the Green Movement protests started in Iran over the disputed presidential elections.
But to the surprise of many people, Haley argued at the meeting that the unrest could escalate into full-blown conflict and drew a comparison with Syria. Russia opposed the US push for Iran to be discussed at the Security Council, arguing that the protests posed no threat to international peace and security.
Britain and France reiterated that Iran must respect the rights of the protesters, but there was a surprise when French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said that the “events of the past few days do not constitute a threat to peace and international security.”
Before the Security Council meeting began, the French ambassador had expressed the importance of the Iran nuclear deal to reporters at the UN and the role it had played in the stability of the region. He described it as one of the greatest diplomatic achievements of the decade.
Perhaps the Western powers have been working with Trump over issues like Iran, and it is certainly true that they have spent more than two years negotiating with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to reach a deal dismantling a large portion of Iran's nuclear programme.
In the absence of the deal, there are fears that Iran could resume its programme and a nuclear weapons race could sweep the region.
To prevent confrontation between Iran and the US, the Western powers have closed their eyes to human rights violations in Iran, and the Security Council failed to support the US representative's claims. Even Haley's speech was not strong enough to build the support of the international community for the Iranian people.
No one expected a UN Security Council Resolution or other particular outcome from this emergency meeting on the Iran protests, but there were hopes it would draw the world's attention to the way the regime in Tehran treats its own people. Haley failed to achieve this when millions of eyes in Iran were on her and her performance.
Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the US was abusing the Security Council platform and that the meeting was an attempt to use the current situation in Iran to undermine the Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration opposes.
More than worrying about the fate of the Iranian people under the crackdown orchestrated by the Tehran regime, most in the West are now worried about the Iran nuclear deal, whose future Trump will decide when he reviews it on 17 January and whether he wants to remain committed to it.


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