Trump Admin to Boycott U.N. Council Over Anti-Israel Agenda

By Adam Kredo

Washington Free Beacon

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 Monday's meeting. 

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 to officials. 

The administration also is pushing other nations to criticize the UNHCR's anti-Israel bias and promote significant reforms. 

 JOE LIEBERMAN: 

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 to Iran.

“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 eased. 

“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.” 

Missiles, sanctions

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 ahead. 

“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” the resolution. 

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.