In an abrupt and unforeseen move, Nikki Haley resigned from her post as US ambassador to the United Nations recently.
The resignation left friends and foes, including White House staff, baffled. Many have reflected on Haley’s future, asking some plausible questions and making a few conceivable predications.
Analysts have asked if Haley’s departure was done in good faith or whether it was a tactic meant to see her return to office stronger, and, if so, what the world should expect.
Haley’s wheeling and dealing have been atypical, and it would pay in the long run to try to make sense of this important politician.
I doubt that Nikki Haley plans on withdrawing from the political arena altogether. In fact, it may be truer to say that she has perfected her exit in the hope of a more profound re-entry at a future date.
Having reached the peak of what the UN can offer her, and since her aspirations do not stop there, Haley is moving on.
She also did not leave US President Donald Trump in the lurch, but instead gave him time to find a replacement as she will formally leave office at the end of the year.
Her resignation has been the only recent White House resignation that was not fraught, but instead ended on mutually friendly terms.
On her way up, Haley faced hurdles that she easily overcame. Her Indian origins and her parents’ religious affiliation as Sikhs could have been considered as hurdles by some, but they do not seem to have been so for Haley who took up Christianity later in life possibly to avoid any racial discrimination she may have faced.
Once assigned the UN position, Haley made a powerful impact on deliberations in the organisation, mainly due to her hardline bias in favour of the US and Israel. She snubbed many in the process, but she never flinched.
When Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, for example, Egypt put forward a draft UN resolution criticising this move.
Haley then issued a direct threat, warning delegates not to vote for the resolution. She also sent a letter to UN delegations saying that the president “will be watching the vote carefully” and that she would “report back on those who voted against us”.
She has defended Trump unreservedly. For instance, when delegates at the UN laughed at him during the General Assembly meetings in September, Haley said that this was prompted “by respect” as they “love his honesty”. Later, she said that delegates at the UN were “falling over themselves trying to get a picture with the president and praising his speech,” a comment that bemused many critics.
As she resigned her office, Haley considered her achievements at the UN. “Now the United States is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do,” she said, even as the polls showed otherwise.
Expectations regarding Haley’s future are tremendous. Some say that she exited her UN post in defiance of Trump since he had bypassed her for the position of US secretary of state twice. Others warn that Haley could be in the White House in 2024.
In the meantime, Haley has announced that she has no intention of running in the 2020 US presidential elections, but that she will support Trump. As for 2024, that will be a different ballgame, and by then Haley will still only be 52 years old.
What does the world, in particular the Arab world, gain or lose from Haley’s resignation from the UN and her continuing presence in the political realm? She has proven to be a staunch ally of Israel, and at meetings of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pressure group, she has proclaimed her allegiance to the country.
“The US will always stand with Israel,” she has said more than once.
In contrast, Haley views Palestine as not a “UN member state or any state at all,” and she has adamantly supported Trump’s withholding of aid to the Palestinians. She has even questioned the Palestinian right of return to their land as part of any negotiated peace settlement.
US policy will not change with Haley’s departure, but no one can deny that Haley’s views resonated powerfully in the hallways of the UN. It was she who said loud and clear that “I wear heels, but it’s not a fashion statement. It’s because if I see something wrong, I’m gonna kick ‘em every single time.”
It seems likely that despite her recent resignation as US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley will be back with a vengeance, and the world, in particular the Arab world, should be forewarned.
* The writer is a political analyst.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 November, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: What’s behind Nikki Haley’s resignation?