A look at five issues S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley will face if she is confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
1. The Iran deal
Under Barack Obama, the U.S. and five nations – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – reached a deal with Iran to dismantle its nuclear arms program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Donald Trump assailed the deal on the campaign trail, promising he would negotiate a tougher one with Iran.
As ambassador, Haley will play a role in President Trump’s Iran policy since some sanctions were imposed by the U.N. Security Council.
“The U.N. will play a big role in monitoring the Iran nuclear deal,” said Bob Cox, director of the Walker Institute of International and Area Studies at the University of South Carolina. “The ambassador to the U.N. is going to be a very important person in explaining what the United States’ position is.”
When the Obama Administration announced plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States in 2016, Haley asked the State Department to consider not sending any to South Carolina. Donald Trump had an even stronger response, calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
As U.N. ambassador, Haley will be part of an organization responsible for about 65 million refugees worldwide.
“The United Nations’ job is providing support to people who are displaced by conflict,” USC’s Cox said. “Many of these missions require U.S. support … That’s one area where I think she is going to run up against domestic U.S. issues. She’s likely to feel some pressure.”
3. The war in Syria
Many of those refugees are fleeing a 5-year-old civil war in Syria. The conflict – among the dictatorship of Bashar Assad, anti-Assad rebels and Islamic State, or ISIS – presents one of the biggest headaches Haley will face at the U.N.
“The humanitarian crises, particularly in the city of Aleppo, is almost unprecedented,” Cox said.
Haley also will have to navigate choppy waters with Russia, which supports Assad’s regime.
4. Russia’s ‘frozen’ conflicts
Haley will be tasked with working with Russia’s U.N. representatives even as the United States considers how to deal with Russian activities in Syria and elsewhere.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia for its 2015 annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine. Russia also is involved in disputes over the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, seized in a 2008 war with the Republic of Georgia, a U.S. ally. “These are areas it’s been in Russia’s interest to maintain chaos,” Cox said.
Russian-backed hackers also are thought to have launched cyberattacks on U.S. targets this year.
5. Representing Donald Trump
Being a U.S. ambassador is a challenge under any circumstances. Being Trump’s ambassador could pose unique challenges.
Haley might find herself inundated with countries coming to her with “diplomatic slights.”
For example, Cox said, “We learned ... the president-elect took a phone call from the president of Taiwan. It caused a bit of a stir within the diplomatic community.”
In the case of future phone calls, “Leaders in Beijing will talk to the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, the Chinese ambassador in Washington will talk to the State Department, and the Chinese ambassador to the U.N. will contact Nikki Haley,” Cox said
Trump’s unpredictability could make responding to any future slights an uncomfortable task. “To the extent that she might be caught unawares and might not have time to prep, it could be a special challenge,” Cox said.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, the Charleston Republican who once was Haley’s mentor, has his own suggestion for handling the U.N. role.
“I would suggest she be very careful of falling into the nationalist trap Trump seemed to be setting on the campaign trail,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re only 5 percent of the world’s population. We have advanced by engaging with the rest of the world.”