UN Ambassador Samantha Power pens “Exit Memo” stressing Obama successes, including supporting Israel

Ambassador Samantha Power met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in 2016 [Kobi Gideon / GPO]
Ambassador Samantha Power met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in 2016 [Kobi Gideon / GPO]
The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, warned today that the United States cannot retract from the United Nations without losing global influence to less democratic rivals. Writing an “exit memo” in preparation for President Barack Obama leaving office, Power seemed to direct her message especially toward President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly derided and ridiculed the UN.

“In 2017 it is clear that the United States needs the UN more than ever,” Power wrote. “It is also clear that it would harm U.S. interests – including our vital national security interests – to retreat from leading at the UN.”

The long memo is largely concerned with stressing the major successes of the UN during the Obama administration, including addressing the Ebola crises and identifying the Syrian government as the perpetrator of chemical attacks.

Power does devote an entire section to reforming the anti-Israel bias in the UN, and she brags of securing Yom Kippur recognition as an official UN holiday and getting Israel onto two powerful voting blocks, the Western European and Others Group [WEOG] and the Japan, United States, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and New Zealand group [JUSCANZ].

Power also reflects on the US joining the Human Rights Council in 2009, and she describes advocating for Israel as one of the US’s major roles there. “Although it is highly problematic that the UN Human Rights Council still includes only one permanent agenda item – not on North Korea or Syria, but rather on Israel – through our leadership in the Council since 2009 we have succeeded in getting the body to expand its focus, reducing by half the share of country-specific resolutions on Israel,” Power writes.

December’s controversial Security Council resolution, however, went unaddressed by Power. She did discuss the Iran Deal, saying that its future success will depend on continued cooperation of all parties with the United Nations. “We must continue to fulfill our own commitments and use UN Security Council Resolution 2231 to maintain legal restrictions on the transfer of nuclear-related items to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will remain exclusively peaceful and provide for the snapback of UN sanctions if Iran fails to adhere to the its commitments under the JCPOA,” 

The ultimate objective of the piece, however, seemed to be making the case, not for the Obama administration but for the United States as a global leader, at the United Nations and elsewhere around the world. It’s a timely plea, with reports just yesterday of GOP plans to eliminate funding for the United Nations as retaliation for December’s Israel-Palestine resolution.

“Other nations will follow us if we continue to lead; without our leadership the vacuum on the global stage will prove very harmful to U.S. interests,” Power wrote. “Indeed, in the years ahead, working with the UN to address these challenges will not be a litmus test of whether one is committed to international norms and institutions or not – it will simply be a strategic necessity.”

01/05/2017 5:07 PM by David Kinzer

More from Foreign Policy