Admin to Boycott U.N. Council Over Anti-Israel Agenda
By Adam Kredo
March 20, 2017
The Trump administration will boycott the United Nation's
Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, due to its efforts to advance an anti-Israel
agenda, according to senior administration officials familiar with the effort
who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
The UNHRC, which includes member
countries cited for mass human rights abuses, is poised on Monday to
adopt at least five anti-Israel resolutions, prompting outrage in the Trump
administration over what officials described as the council's unjust bias
against the Jewish state.
The action on these items has prompted the Trump
administration to boycott the council and refuse to attend the Monday meeting,
according to administration officials apprised of the situation who spoke with
the Free Beacon.
The boycott comes on the heels of the resignation of
a Jordanian U.N. official who had sought to advance an anti-Israel agenda
opposed by the United States and other nations.
Trump administration officials said the increased pressure
on the U.N. is part of a larger effort by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley to
significantly reform the international organization and root out those who use
it as a platform to push anti-Israel initiatives.
On Monday, the UNHRC is set to consider an agenda known as
the "human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab
territories." It is said to include several anti-Israel declarations that
the Trump administration fiercely objects to.
Senior Trump administration officials who spoke to the Free
Beacon said the upcoming resolutions affirm the U.N.'s unacceptable bias
against Israel, which remains the only member nation that has specific agenda
items aimed against it.
The efforts to criticize Israel threaten the council's
credibility and are said to have motivated the Trump administration to boycott
Haley and other senior administration officials have
determined that this anti-Israel bias must be addressed before the U.S. rejoins
the council and gives it legitimacy, according to sources.
The Trump administration told the Free Beacon it
is fully committed to voting against "every resolution" targeting
Israel and that it will encourage allies to do the same.
"The argument that the U.S. has to participate in
bodies like the United Nations Human Rights Council or risk losing our influence
over it is ridiculous," said one senior administration official familiar
with the boycott. "The UNHRC is, like its predecessor, morally
bankrupt and the only good news is that its actions have little practical effect
in the real world. We've wasted enough time and money on it."
The declaration signals a vast departure from the Obama
administration, which, in its final days in office, helped craft and garner
support for a fiercely anti-Israel resolution. The Obama administration's
efforts, which were widely condemned by Israel and U.S. pro-Israel groups, broke
with decades of U.S. policy when it promoted this effort.
Newly installed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated
recently that the United States intends boycott the UNHRC until it
implements much needed reforms, chiefly its anti-Israel bias.
The latest move is meant to bolster this policy and send a
message that the UNHRC's bias against Israel must cease before the U.S.
considers the group legitimate.
The Trump administration intends to vote against every U.N.
resolution against Israel and will urge other nations to do the same, according
The administration also is pushing other nations to
criticize the UNHCR's anti-Israel bias and promote significant reforms.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman supported Hillary Clinton’s
presidential campaign, but on Wednesday, he called the shift from President
Obama to President Trump “enormously significant and hopeful” when it comes
“Though I will say that I was a proud supporter of
Secretary Clinton in the election last year, when it comes to the question of
Iran, the change from President Obama to President Trump is an enormously
significant and hopeful change,” he told a Nowruz (Persian new year) gathering
on Capitol Hill.
Lieberman, the former running mate of Democrat Al Gore,
said the Obama administration had supported a “bad” nuclear deal with Iran,
refused to see Iranian violations, and sent then-Secretary of State John Kerry
to urge leery European bankers to resume business with Iran when sanctions were
“The change in the White House attitude, it gives us an
important opportunity,” he said.
Lieberman told the event, sponsored by the Organization of
Iranian American Communities (OIAC) and held in the Russell Senate Office
Building,, that he perceived a return in Congress to a bipartisan response to
the Iranian threat.
He said a long tradition of bipartisanship on the Iran
question had “stopped for a moment” when Congress considered the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal.
“The divide was almost totally Republicans against the
agreement, Democrats for it,” he recalled. “And I think that was for one
reason only: That was that President Obama was so personally involved in
it and made such personal appeals to Democratic members of the Senate.”
“But I think you’ll find and already have found that
the bipartisan consensus about the threat that Iran represents has returned,”
he said, “and there’s a real interest in focusing in on a regime in Iran and
changing what exists now.”
Just four Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the
JCPOA, which gave Iran tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return
for implementing steps which the Obama administration said would prevent it from
acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
They were Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Robert Menendez
of New Jersey, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Another participant in the Nowruz event, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) was not among those who voted against the JCPOA, although he said at the time he had “serious reservations” about the deal.
On Wednesday, Peters also stressed the importance of a
bipartisan response to Tehran.
“There should be no daylight between Democrats and
Republicans when it comes to standing up against the Iranian regime and
demanding that there is accountability and demanding that that regime respect
basic human rights and move to a democratic regime where the people of Iran
actually have a say and actually have an opportunity to pursue their dreams and
to live in the kind of freedom that every human being should,” he said.
“That has to be a Democratic and Republican issue,”
Peters said “We have to be united.”
In a strong show of such bipartisanship last December, the Senate voted 99-0 to renew the Iran Sanctions Act by ten years. (Obama declined to sign it, allowing it to become law without his signature.)
Senators are now understood to be mulling new sanctions
legislation in response to ongoing launches of Iranian ballistic missiles.
After Iran carried
out more such tests early this month, Senate Foreign Relations
Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) indicated that the effort was moving
“These provocative tests are just the latest example of
Iran’s dangerous actions that demand a coordinated, multi-faceted response
from the United States,” he said. “The administration has already begun to
push back in the way that we should, and I look forward to working with them as
we prepare to introduce bipartisan legislation to deter Iran’s threatening
behavior on all fronts.”
As reported earlier, the Obama administration allowed the wording of a U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrined the JCPOA to be weakened in a way that has allowed Iran – and its ally Russia – to justify its missile activity.
Security Council resolution 2231, which passed unanimously
in July 2015, “called upon” Iran not to carry out launches of missiles
“designed to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.”
In contrast, an earlier resolution – overtaken and
replaced by 2231 – had declared that Iran “shall not” undertake launches
of missiles “capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
Three days after the resolution was adopted, Kerry appeared
before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and sparred
with Menendez over the watered-down language.
Months later the weakened language compelled the State
Department, which initially said reports of subsequent Iranian missile launches
would be a “violation” of resolution 2231, to adjust its own stance several
days later, and say only that the Iranian actions were “inconsistent with”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif boasted
to lawmakers in Teheran that he had spent seven months painstakingly
negotiating the wording of the missile-related text in the resolution, depicting
the outcome as a victory over Kerry and other JCPOA negotiating partners.
In his remarks at the OIAC Nowruz event Wednesday,
Lieberman said the regime’s behavior had not improved as a result of the JCPOA,
but had worsened.
“What are the words that come out of the mouths of the
most influential leaders in Tehran? Not moderation, not respect for the
United States. ‘Death to America! Death to America!’”
“And we may put our hands over our ears, those who
support the [nuclear] agreement, and not want to hear that, not want to believe
it, but trust me,” Lieberman said. “History is cluttered with the bodies of
people who didn’t – dead bodies – who didn’t believe extreme things
being said by tyrants in the world.”
Lieberman, a former Democratic and later independent
senator from Connecticut, is chairman of United Against a Nuclear Iran, a
bipartisan lobby group opposed to the JCPOA.