USA pushes UN Security Council to focus on Iran not Israel

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley prepares to speak at a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria at the United Nations Headquarters in New York

The UN Security Council's monthly meeting on the situation in the Middle East is usually an Israel-hate-fest, but on Thursday, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador, urged the council to focus on human rights violators instead, most notably, Iran. "They are working together to expand extremist ideologies in the Middle East".

"Incredibly, the UN Department of Political Affairs has an entire department devoted to Palestinian affairs", Haley said after the February meeting. Haley said that the United States believes that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is attainable and can only be reached through direct talks.

Haley, the president by rotation this month of the U.N. Security Council, convened a council session on the Middle East. Still, the US will review whether to reimpose economic sanctions that were eased under the accord, he said.

The U.S. ambassador's strong comments come a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson criticized Tehran, saying that while it had abided by its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed between the six major powers and Iran in 2015, the deal had not stopped Iran's ability and determination to develop nuclear weapons.

Haley's remarks followed suit with the focus sharply critical of Iran: Tillerson said the suspension of Iran sanctions would be the subject of an inter-agency review.

Iran joined the USA and five other world powers in signing the 2015 deal, and Tillerson acknowledged in a message Tuesday to Congress that Iran has delivered so far on its end of the deal.

Nickolay Mladenov of Bulgaria, the U.N.'s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, touched on conflicts and instability in Syria and Lebanon but focused primarily on the Israel-Palestinian conflict in his report to the council. That's the way the Security Council has operated for years.

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"The same is true for the United Nations Security Council".

As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he called for coordinated efforts on a Middle East settlement and repeated Russia's offer to host a meeting in Moscow between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to start direct negotiations. If the United States decides to breach the nuclear deal, it must be realised that this is a conflict with other global powers and allies that are still party to or in favour of the agreement.

Haley's guidelines to the Council included the plea to nations to not lose sight of the cross border influx of terrorist fighters.

The 2015 Iran deal also angered traditional US allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, which says it's battling Iranian proxies in a war in neighboring Yemen. Western states have blamed the Assad regime, allied with Iran, for the attack. "We are moving from a position of accommodation to one of confrontation across multiple fronts".

All U.N. member states - not just the 15 on the council - were invited to deliver short addresses on the Middle East.

Although Haley has the leadership role this month, any resolution condemning Iran's regional influence is unlikely to pass because Tehran holds an alliance with Russian Federation, who holds veto power in the Security Council. Maloney said further, "Building a broad consensus is tough".

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