UNITED NATIONS – U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, returning to the Security Council for the first time since she announced her intention to step down earlier this month, tore into Iran’s alleged use of child soldiers on Thursday and accused the regime of “crony terrorism.”
“The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it,” she said in remarks to the chamber.
Her remarks came two days after the Treasury announced sanctions against a network of businesses and financial institutions linked to the Basij Resistance Force -- a wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard which the U.S. says uses child soldiers.
Haley accused Iran of using Basij to recruit children to fight in Syria, including Afghan immigrants as young as 14-years-old. She said the group’s funding comes from “multibillion dollar business interests operating in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals and banking industries."
“Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad. In this case, Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers,” she said. “This is crony terrorism.”
The U.S. pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal earlier this year, and has re-imposed a number of economic sanctions on the regime -- a move that has encountered resistance from a number of European leaders in particular who believe in the agreement. In November, the U.S. intends to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s crude oil exports.
In her remarks, Haley described the sanctions against Iran as “broad and deep -- and for good reason” and promised that the U.S. would do all it could to reverse the flow of international money into Iran.
“Any company or individual that does business with this Iranian network is complicit in sending children to die on the battlefields of Syria and elsewhere,” she said.
Haley’s attention on Iran marks the latest example of her strategy of taking debates on the situation in the Middle East and drawing the council’s attention away from the Israeli-Palestinian debate -- where discussions frequently devolve into Israel-bashing -- and onto other issues in the region.
But Tuesday’s meeting still saw plenty of focus on Israel. Bolivia, which holds the presidency for October, invited fringe Israeli group B’Tselem -- a critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies -- to speak at the meeting.
Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem’s executive director accused Israel of “oppressing millions while somehow still being considered a democracy” and drew a comparison with the Jim Crow era in the U.S.
“Voter suppression was a cornerstone of the American South under Jim Crow laws. But we have gone and done one better delivering no less than voter obliteration,” he told the Council.
But Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon responded by saying that the appearance of B’Tselem was proof of Israel’s “vibrant democracy.”
“I challenge you all to find a Palestinian or a Bolivian who could dare defame its government at the Security Council,” he said. “At best he might be thrown in jail but more likely would end up dead.”
Ahead of the briefing, Danon displayed a document purportedly showing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signing off on payments to terrorists who have killed Israelis. He said that Abbas had allocated $355 million (seven percent of the PA budget) to payments for terrorists and asked the Council what that money could otherwise be used for.
Haley, who has repeatedly criticized the U.N. for anti-Israel bias, said that the briefing from El-Ad “was the sort of distorted and biased accounting that is provided all too often at the United Nations when it comes to Israel and the Palestinian issue.”
President Trump accepted Haley’s resignation earlier this month, in a move that came as a surprise to officials and reporters. She will step down from the post in January.