January 20, 2017

Haley Discusses Religious Registry, Misses Mark on Iran Deal

170118-nikki-haley-hearing-ok-1120_b968bd1225ac1c77baaefa567ff5bd00.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000On Wednesday, January 18, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, faced tough questioning from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing. During the hearing, the Governor indicated she did not support a religion-based or “Muslim” registry, while leaving the door open to one based on national origin, and got several facts on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, wrong while indicating that the new administration would review Iran’s compliance.

When questioned about her stance on the creation of a national registry based upon religious affiliation, Gov. Haley broke from earlier statements made by President-elect Trump in replying, “[h]is administration and I don’t think there should be any registry based on religion.” She went on the affirm that no registry based on religion would be created in the United States. However, she did express the potential for a system in which we “watch and be careful” with individuals traveling from countries with terrorism concerns, reflecting the approach taken by Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions and other Trump appointees. Immigration and civil rights advocates are concerned that a defacto Muslim ban or registry could be imposed under the pretext of targeting individuals based on country of origin rather than explicitly targeting based on religion.

When directly asked by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) if she supports backing out of the JCPOA, Gov. Haley indicated it is “more beneficial at this point to look at all the aspects of the Iran deal” to determine if Iran is truly in compliance with all provisions. “We need to hold them accountable,” she said, without expressing how she and the rest of the administration would do so.

Further, in describing the Iran nuclear deal, Gov. Haley falsely asserted, “we gave the leading state sponsor of terrorism a free pass after 10 years to pursue nuclear weapons, and we gave them billions of dollars to do it.” Sen. Kaine pushed back, saying “I would encourage you to read the agreement, because what you just stated about the agreement is quite inaccurate. There are many, many restrictions in the agreement after ten years, specific restrictions in perpetuity.” Further, he noted that the first paragraph of the accord indicates that Iran will never seek to acquire a nuclear weapon, that the U.S. didn’t give Iran money but released assets that were Iran’s to begin with, and that the JCPOA guarantees inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that correctly asserted that Iraq did not have a nuclear weapons program before the 2003 Iraq war. “If you think those things I can see why you might be opposed to [the JCPOA],” said Kaine, “but actually that is a completely inaccurate reflection of the agreement.”

Despite Sen. Kaine’s pushback, toward the end of the hearing Gov. Haley again made a dubious statement on the JCPOA, asserting “we’re seeing more and more where Iran is not allowing us access to see if violations are occurring.” However, the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to closely monitor and verify Iran’s nuclear program and has not reported any complications in implementing verification measures. In fact, technical areas of dispute have been detected by the IAEA and sorted out via discussions amongst the P5+1 and Iran.

In another exchange about the JCPOA, Gov. Haley expressed skepticism regarding the support Russia and China gave to the deal, stating “With the Iran deal, the fact that Russia and China were supportive is a red flag that something is wrong with the deal.” Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) pushed back, noting that our European allies support the JCPOA as well. However, given her likely confirmation as UN ambassador, it is noteworthy that she appears skeptical of anything backed by Russia and China, given that their support is needed to get anything – including resolutions on Iran – through the UN Security Council.

Gov. Haley expressed support for enforcing existing sanctions, noting her intention to call out both Iran and “anyone helping Iran do anything,” – an ominous statement given the range of economic activities with Iran that are now permitted under the deal.

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