The Trump administration is disowning a plan presented by UN ambassador Nikki Haley for President Donald Trump to hold a meeting at the United Nations next week focused on Iran, according to diplomats familiar with the planning.
Haley had announced that Trump would chair a meeting on the world’s biggest diplomatic stage to “address Iran’s violations of international law and the general instability Iran sows throughout the entire Middle East region.”
The United States will decide the meeting agenda, a centerpiece of the annual UN General Assembly, because it holds the rotating chair of the Security Council for the month of September. It will be Trump’s first time brandishing the UN gavel at a table of officials representing the world’s most powerful nations.
Focusing the meeting on Iran, however, drew immediate concerns from US allies who believed that the topic would expose sharp disagreements between the United States, France and Britain over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Trump unilaterally withdrew from in May.
Other US officials also voiced concerns that an article of the UN Charter would allow Iran to participate in the meeting because it is a “party to a dispute under consideration,” raising the prospect of an awkward and contentious standoff between Trump and a representative from Iran.
“Trump risked a collision with the UK and France over Iran at the UN Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron would have had no choice but to defend the nuclear deal in the council,” said Richard Gowan, a senior fellow at the United Nations University, a global affairs think tank.
“I don’t think anyone liked the idea of the president having to sit through stern defenses of the Iran deal from May and Macron. He could have got very tetchy, as he did at NATO and the G-7, or walked out of the council causing a diplomatic fuss,” Gowan added.
Instead of leading a meeting on Iran, Trump will chair a debate on nonproliferation, constitutionalism and sovereignty, said the diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss future planning.
The broad topic, which does not explicitly single out any country, does not require an invitation to be extended to Iran and reduces the likelihood of public disunity among Western democracies.
Officials at the White House and the US mission to the United Nations declined to comment on why the topic of the meeting is different from the Iran-centered one unveiled by Haley on Sept. 4, when she briefed reporters in New York.
At the time, Haley acknowledged that Iran would make for an “uncomfortable” topic for some Security Council members but said that “I personally think that when we talk about things that are uncomfortable in the Security Council, good things happen.”
“President Trump is very adamant that we have to start making sure that Iran is falling in line with international order,” Haley said.
Haley’s remarks did not exist in isolation. Earlier this month, US diplomats privately told several foreign countries that Trump would chair an Iran-focused meeting at the Security Council, diplomats said.
Then, on Sept. 7, the US mission to the UN issued a statement saying the meeting would focus on a “broader range of issues,” including the “proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” in addition to “Iran’s destabilizing activities”. And last week, US officials began confirming with foreign partners that Iran would not be the topic of the meeting.
In addition to the concerns of US allies, Russia also objected to a Security Council meeting that singled out one nation.
The president’s penchant for improvised remarks has captured the focus and anxieties of nation’s preparing for this month’s global summit in New York. But despite the lofty optics, the US will be hard pressed to make any meaningful accomplishments as rivals China and Russia maintain veto power over any resolutions.
Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, said both Iran and the United States will benefit from a Security Council meeting that isn’t explicitly focused on Iran.
By the end of next week, more than 140 world leaders are expected to deliver addresses at the annual General Assembly. The Trump administration is expected to take a particularly hard line on China, which it accuses of promoting unfair trade practices and exploiting smaller countries across Asia.
This article was first published by Washington Post and also DailyMirror.lk.