By Arab News
By Camelia Entekhabifard*
The US mission at the UN suddenly became the center of attention nearly two years ago when Nikki Haley took office as US ambassador. She was not the first woman to serve there, but she has certainly been the most controversial. Her resignation last week came as a surprise to most American politicians, and as a relief to UN diplomats.
The UN is a bureaucratic place; diplomacy and negotiation take precedence. Haley shook that up by insisting that the US was the world’s leading power, and everyone else should follow. Her style, rather than making the UN a place of unity, made it a scene of division. Her stand against the Palestinians, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and withdrawing the US from the UN Human Rights Council, all put the US in a difficult position. Her style was aggressive, which many at the UN, including US allies, considered unfriendly and pushy.
The world is used to seeing US policy and diplomacy shaped and developed in Washington and at the White House, not at the UN in New York. Haley’s misinterpretation of the purpose of the UN has damaged US diplomacy. The aim of the US was to increase pressure on Iran over its behavior in the region. Haley’s methods, overtly political rather than diplomatic, achieved the opposite, paralyzed the Security Council and caused trouble for the US.
Of course, for many hardcore Republicans she was the perfect representative, but they have little knowledge of how the UN functions. In fact Haley alienated Arab and Western allies, and gave the regime in Tehran room to maneuver.
Her methods, a sort of anti-diplomacy, did not suit the aims of US policy, and it was becoming increasingly clear that Haley was acting in parallel to the White House and in competition with prominent US policymakers such as John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State. It became clear in the end that she had no choice other than to resign.
The proof of this argument lies in the rumors about who may succeed Haley at the UN — the front runners are the current US ambassadors to Germany and Canada, suggesting that President Trump’s choice will be someone with a diplomatic background rather than a political one.
The US needs a representative at the UN who can present the American message in a way that wins the respect of other nations.
Meanwhile, there may be celebrations in Tehran, where the regime will be happy with Haley’s departure. They should be careful what they wish for.
In the end, Haley was noisy but harmless. Her successor may be more quiet, but considerably more destructive of Iran’s aims and ambitions.
* Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: @CameliaFard