politics

Haley's Iran Session at UN Prompts Envoys to Defend Nuclear Deal

Updated on
  • U.K., France say they remain committed to nuclear accord
  • Meeting comes one week before key Trump decisions on sanctions

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Jan. 5, 2018. 

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Friday to focus on deadly protests in Iran, but the hearing didn’t go as planned.

While most envoys criticized the violence and called on Iran’s government to show restraint with protesters, several -- including U.S. allies France and the U.K. -- also used the opportunity to defend the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, an accord increasingly seen as under threat by President Donald Trump’s administration.

After criticizing Iran’s ballistic missile development and role in supporting Yemeni rebels, U.K. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft added that “The U.K. remains fully committed to the JCPOA,” an acronym for the nuclear accord. “We encourage all members states to uphold all their commitments. A prosperous, stable Iran is beneficial to all.”

Ending the nuclear accord “would be a major setback for the entire international community,” French envoy Francois Delattre said, adding that “the agreement is one of the cornerstones of stability in the Middle East as a whole.”

Read a QuickTake Q&A on how Iran’s economic strains helped fuel protests

The concerns about the nuclear accord come as Trump faces a series of key decisions on Iran starting next week -- including whether to honor part of the 2015 agreement that lifted restrictions on Iran’s banking, oil and shipping industries. He could opt to re-impose the sanctions and risk collapse of the accord, a move that Friday’s UN session showed would leave the U.S. isolated.

Haley, who never mentioned the nuclear accord, focused her remarks on the protests that have killed at least 20 people and led to as many as 1,000 arrests. She said the demonstrations were a “spontaneous expression of fundamental human rights” against an “oppressive government” that prioritizes militias and terror groups abroad over its own people.

“The Iranian people are calling out, ‘Think of us!’” Haley said, echoing a chant heard at some protests.

China and Russia -- which seldom like to discuss political protests at the UN -- led a group of countries that said the demonstrations were a domestic affair that didn’t threaten international security and shouldn’t be taken up. China’s envoy said that if Haley’s logic were to be followed consistently, the Security Council should have held hearings after the 2014 racial protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in 2011.

As the Security Council debate was underway, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif published a statement calling the hearing a foreign policy “blunder by the U.S.”

Sweden’s envoy, deputy Ambassador Irina Schoulgin Nyoni, appeared to sum up the view of many on the 15-nation Security Council: “Human rights violations must be separated from JCPOA. The agreement is there to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

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