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Trump’s Pointless U.N. Stunt

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Credit: Flickr/Creative Commons/U.S. Mission Photo/Eric Bridiers

The latest reports on Trump’s Security Council stunt confirm that it is going to be a complete waste of time:

Ms. Haley, who will serve as president of the Security Council for the month of September, said she did not expect an official council statement or resolution to come out of Mr. Trump’s session on Iran. Rather, she said, the point is simply to call Iran out [bold mine-DL].

“We want to make sure that they understand the world is watching,” she said.

The Trump administration has made a habit of “calling out” adversaries and putting them “on notice” for the last year and a half, but it has had no effect on their behavior and it hasn’t harmed their relations with most other states. Haley says that the administration thinks that Iran has “been ignored and given a pass for too long.” This is laughable when you consider that Iran has been under heavier international sanctions than almost every other country on the planet for many years and still has to abide by restrictions on its nuclear program that no other state has ever had to accept. If this amounts to getting a pass, what would intense scrutiny and pressure look like?

Despite all this, the Trump administration has managed to achieve the near-impossible feat of making itself more and more of an international pariah at the same time that its economic warfare against Iran wins them sympathy and support from other states. The other member states might be inclined to pay a lot more attention to American complaints about Iran if the U.S. weren’t the one flagrantly violating UNSCR 2231 and the JCPOA, but as it is the U.S. is the one in clear violation of its obligations while Iran remains in compliance. If Trump had not made the irrational, destructive decision to renege on the nuclear deal, the U.S. would be in a much stronger position to criticize Iran on other issues, but that ship has sailed.

One of many other problems with Trump’s planned stunt is that the U.S. has violated international law quite a few times over just the last fifteen years, and it has aided and abetted its clients in their own violations as well. If one wanted to find someone to deliver a rebuke to Iran, one could scarcely ask for a worse, less credible messenger than Trump. Not only is Trump especially contemptuous of international law and institutions even by American standards, but as president he has continued the illegal U.S. military presence in Syria, he has increased support for the Saudi coalition’s horrific war on Yemen despite extensive evidence of their war crimes, and he has ordered attacks on the Syrian government in clear violation of the U.N. Charter. On top of all that, he has repeatedly made obnoxious threats to destroy entire countries. Most other governments don’t recognize the legitimacy of the U.S. effort to strangle Iran’s economy, and many major powers are doing what they can to evade U.S. sanctions. That is what eventually happens when the U.S. consistently abuses its power and singles out certain states for punishment no matter what they do: U.S. influence wanes and respect for U.S. concerns vanishes.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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