Haley ready for UN role despite dearth of foreign policy experience

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Despite questions about Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R-S.C.) lack of foreign policy credentials, she will bring diplomatic and negotiation skills to the often stodgy corridors of the United Nations as ambassador.

Her appointment, if confirmed, comes at a rocky time for the U.N. as a result of a December Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, made possible by the abstention of the outgoing Obama administration.

{mosads}The U.N. has a lot of issues; that is nothing new. But, last month, one of the most multilateral presidents in decades, President Barack Obama, threw a virtual hand grenade into traditional U.N. proceedings with the 11th-hour vote on Israel.

Whether or not you agree with its merits, the timing of the vote has brought what one U.N. Security Council diplomat called “unintended consequences.” Both the House of Representatives and Senate voted to condemn the council vote.

Nikki Haley comes to the U.N. without U.S. government experience, but with the kind of experience that helps get negotiations accomplished. She is a striver, a child of immigrants.

Haley turns 45 on Inauguration Day and her six years as governor gave her an unanticipated platform to deal with hate crime, Muslim-American issues, trade and diplomatic experience (she met with scores of foreign diplomats).

At the U.N., stalemates, corruption and sexual abuse have plagued the organization in the past decade. One of the smartest, most experienced and knowledgeable U.S. ambassadors in recent years, Samantha Power, got a lot done, but was stymied on Syria and other pressing crises by Moscow.

Recent U.S. ambassadors, including Power, Susan Rice, Zalmay Khalilzad, John Bolton, all had experience in the executive branch, either at the National Security Council or State Department.

John Danforth, a George W. Bush appointee, came out of the Senate with a short, but important, appointment as U.S. presidential envoy for peace negotiations in Sudan.

The earlier, well-heeled patrician U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. presided over some famous crises, but not ones that deal with non-state parties, like ISIS or al Qaeda.

In an era when alliances are more necessary than ever, Haley’s qualifications appear to be well-tailored to the position.

Haley’s testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began Wednesday with stinging criticism of President Obama’s recent decision on Israeli settlement policy at the U.N., calling it “a terrible mistake.”

After opening statements that echoed Trump’s stated positions on policy, Haley made clear to senators that her foreign policy was not completely in line with some of the president-elect’s campaign statements.

Haley seemed to be speaking from a different script than the president-elect. It was stunning.

She talked about the importance of alliances, including NATO. She expressed support for the Iran deal as long as compliance is checked. She said the U.N. budget would not be slashed.

Haley said Russia should not be trusted, that Russia had committed war crimes in Syria and had violated international law when it annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine. Finally, she emphatically opposed a Muslim registry.

The U.N. has had several female ambassadors from the U.S., but the post only became a Cabinet-level position for the third time in U.S. history during the Obama administration.

There is no indication that the president-elect plans to downgrade the position. That perch, as a member of the president’s Cabinet, will give her the ability to say what she feels and not just be a “yes-woman” to Trump.

“Trump has already modified some positions and more changes are likely once Trump is in office,” Haley said. 

On cutting funding to the U.N., which Congress is considering and which Trump has supported, Haley told the committee she does not believe in a “slash-and-burn” approach.

As a sign that ambassadors do not consider her qualifications short of the job, several U.N. ambassadors, including those from Israel, France and the U.K, have praised her work.

“Governor Haley is a longstanding and true friend of Israel and is an outspoken fighter against the BDS movement [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] in her state, and throughout the U.S,” Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said.

Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador said, “She will bring to the U.N. a strong track record of achievement from South Carolina, and I know that the U.K.-U.S. relationship will continue.”

France’s Ambassador Francois Delattre said that Haley is “highly regarded, result-driven and professional.”

Haley will arrive at the U.N. as it welcomes a new CEO — Secretary General Antonio Guterres — who has made a point that the U.N. needs some fresh eyes as well: “If there is something that is shocking in today’s world, it is to see such a multiplication of conflicts with dramatic human suffering and the little capacity of the international community to prevent conflicts and to, timely, solve them.”

Three months from now, the U.S. ambassador will bang the gavel as president of the U.N. Security Council (due to an alphabetical rotation) and, given her diplomatic skills, Haley will be ready to take on the challenge.

After a largely friendly hearing, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the committee, said he felt “very good” about Haley going to the U.N. and that she would be confirmed overwhelmingly.




Pamela Falk is a correspondent for CBS News TV & Radio, a foreign affairs analyst & U.N. resident correspondent, and a former staff director of a subcommittee of the House of Representatives. She holds a J.D. from Columbia School of Law. She can be reached at @PamelaFalk.


The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

Tags Barack Obama Bob Corker Samantha Power

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