Press Briefing by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley (Excerpts)

September 21, 2017

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

Related Country: 

  • North Korea

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AMBASSADOR HALEY: Then you saw the President's address to the General Assembly, and I think it showed the strength of the United States, but it also asked the world to come together and it asked all the countries to come together as we fight these rogue regimes, and mainly North Korea and Iran. And I think what you saw were a lot of countries responded, they were very positive to the speech, and they appreciated how blunt and honest he was. I think that's been the overall theme from the international community this week, is how straightforward he was and how refreshing it was as they heard him speak.

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AMBASSADOR HALEY: On Iran, that was a topic of conversation throughout the week. I think everyone was talking about the destabilizing activities that they can continue to do throughout the Middle East, whether it's in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and the list goes on. So it is something that we will continue to talk about and continue to move forward to make sure that we're stopping any of their reckless behavior as well.

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Q: And then on Iran, is there a way to talk about -- to ramp up pressure -- as what you were talking about Iran's destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East, which I think a lot of your allies agree on -- without the violating the agreement, per se, as Secretary Tillerson said? I mean, is there a way to get allies to rally around more terrorism type and other sanctions while keeping the nuclear provisions in place?

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AMBASSADOR HALEY: In reference to Iran, you have a couple of processes that take place. On October 15th, the President has the decision to make on whether to certify or decertify, and that's U.S. law. That has nothing to do with the JCPOA or the Iran Deal. That's U.S. law. And U.S. law requires the President every 90 days to decide whether the Iran Deal and other elements of the U.N. resolution -- which would include ballistic missile testing, which would include arms smuggling, which would include support of terrorism, those things -- it asks the President to look at all of those things.

And if he still thinks that the deal is in the best interest of the United States, then he certifies. If he thinks that the deal is -- that the situation is not in the best interest of the American public, then he doesn't certify.

At that point, it goes to Congress and he works with Congress on how to reshape the situation. But the Iran Deal and U.S. law are two different things.

Q: Are you saying that he could decertify without specifically withdrawing from the deal?

AMBASSADOR HALEY: That's right. I mean, that's just the option that he has and that's the Corker-Cardin law that came into effect that allowed that to happen.

What I will tell you from a U.N. perspective, what we're looking at and what you're going to hear us very vocal on is the fact that 2331, the resolution that was in place, what we saw was it basically wrapped in with the nuclear deal; it said if Iran did any of these things, it would be in violation.

And since then, the Secretary General has come out with a report that said they have violated all of those things -- their support for terrorism, their arms smuggling, the idea that they continue to do ballistic missile testing -- and they need to be called out for that.

And that's something that you will see us do as we go forward in the United Nations, to make sure that they know that just because we did this nuclear deal, it doesn’t give them a pass on all the other things that they're doing wrong.

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Q: Yes, Madam Ambassador, you've been very vocal on the shortcomings of the Iran Deal and Iran's behavior, perhaps beyond the strict confines of your job here. Where does that come from? Is this your own sort of direct opinion after hearing about Iranian behavior here, or through conversations with the President? Or just talk a little bit about that.

AMBASSADOR HALEY: I had conversations with the President. He was very concerned about Iran. He was very concerned about the deal. And so I went to learn about it and to find out from the IAEA, to look at the resolution, to look at the violations. And so it was just digging deep on the situation of what we found, and then that's why I gave the speech on the scenario that the President is being faced with on the decisions to be made.

This situation, it's not an easy situation by any means, because you look at North Korea and you look at the fact that for 25 years we were looking at bad deal after bad deal after bad deal, and broken promise, broken promise, broken promise.

So here we are again, and we don’t want to be dealing with the next North Korea. And so that's why he's taking it so seriously and saying we need to look at every aspect of this and make sure that it truly is in the best interest of the American public.

Q: The German Foreign Minister said today that any disavowal of the Iran Deal would reduce the likelihood of getting any similar disarmament deal with North Korea. Do you share those concerns that any actions on the Iran Deal might reduce the possibility of getting a deal with North Korea?

And separately, as a point of clarification, do you support a full oil embargo on North Korea?

AMBASSADOR HALEY: So I think let's go back to Iran in the first place. What I will tell you is, a lot of countries are going to have their opinions on whether the U.S. should stay in the deal or not. But those countries don’t have Iranians saying "death to America." They're not saying "death to Germany." They're not saying all of those things. What we can see is terrorist attacks happening everywhere with ties to Iran. And that's something we need to be careful about.

And so it has never moved the U.S. to care about what other countries say. What does move the President is, are we doing everything in the best interest -- security interest for the American people. And that's what you're seeing is playing out.

In terms of comparing Iran to North Korea, that's exactly what we're doing, is we had so many bad deals with North Korea and everybody looked the other way. And every time they broke that deal, they looked the other way. Well, where are we now? They now have a hydrogen bomb. They now have ICBM. So if we don’t do something and we make the same mistakes we made with North Korea, we will be dealing with Iran that has nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. And so that's the concern and that's what we're trying to do with that.

Q: Madam Ambassador, the President said this week that he's made a decision on Iran. Can you tell us what it is?

AMBASSADOR HALEY: No.

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Q: Ambassador, how can the U.S. maintain its diplomatic credibility and get a nuclear deal with North Korea when it is willing to consider blowing up, damaging, putting in peril the existing diplomatic deal with Iran on its program? Doesn’t this undermine U.S. credibility?

AMBASSADOR HALEY: It does not undermine U.S. credibility. What it shows is that the United States is going to always watch out for its people, and that just because there was some agreement that was agreed to -- the smartest thing any country can do is go back and look at it and say, "is it working"; not have too much pride to say, "Oh, I signed it, I have to continue to be a cheerleader." Is it working?

And I'll ask you, do you think that deal is working when Iran continues to test ballistic missiles? Do you think that deal is working when they are supporting terrorists everywhere, from Lebanon to Yemen to Syria to Iraq? Do you think it's still working? And do you think it's still working when they're smuggling arms and now working with North Korea? Is that in the best interest of the United States? I would question that. Because what you're looking at is a country that says "death to America," working with other countries that may also want the same thing. And the President has the responsibility to make sure nothing happens to Americans. And I think that's what he's trying to do.

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