US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned Friday that the US “is prepared to do more” in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
Speaking one day after the US launched strikes against the airbase that was home to warplanes that carried out a chemical attack against civilians earlier this week, Haley also slammed Russia for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The joint investigative mechanism has found beyond any doubt that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against its own people multiple times,” Haley said. “Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. He thought he could get away with it because he knew Russia had his back. That changed last night.”
Reiterating comments she made on Wednesday, Haley said, “there are times when states are compelled to take their own action” and deemed preventing chemical weapons from being spread and used to be “in our vital national security interest.”
Haley also said the Russian government “bears considerable responsibility” for Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
“Every time Assad has crossed the line of human decency, Russia has stood beside him,” Haley said.
Concluding her remarks, Haley warned of further action by the US if necessary to prevent Assad from using the weapons again.
“The United States took a very measured step last night,” Haley said. “We are prepared to do more. But we hope that will not be necessary. It is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution.”
Russia slams US for strike
On Thursday, the US launched a military strike on a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of the country’s civilians, including children, earlier in the week. The council meeting comes as the US and allies press for a resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime for the bombing. Russia, which backs Assad’s government and has troops in Syria, is likely to veto the resolution.
The strike is the first direct military action taken by the US against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year civil war. It represents a substantial escalation of the US military campaign in the region, and could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.
Earlier Friday, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations slammed the US airstrike, calling “it a flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression” in remarks at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday.
“We strongly condemn the illegitimate action by the US,” said Russia’s deputy United Nations ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov. “The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious.”
Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, Sacha Sergio Llorenti Soliz, also criticized the US, accusing it of being the “prosecutor,” “judge” and “jury” in Syria.
“The United States not only unilaterally attacked, but while we were discussing here and demanding the need for an independent investigation an impartial investigation, complete investigation into the attacks, the United States has become to that investigator, has become the prosecutor, has become the judge, has become the jury,” said Soliz. At one point, he held up a picture of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, citing his 2003 remarks to the UN in which he pushed the Bush administration’s case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim that was never substantiated.
‘Russia sits here today humiliated’
The United Kingdom, however, came out strongly in support of the US action.
The UK supports the US airstrikes “because war crimes have consequences and the greatest war criminal of all, Bashar al-Assad, has now been put on notice,” United Kingdom Ambassador to United Nations Matthew Rycroft said.
“The US strike was a proportionate response to unspeakable acts that gave rise to overwhelming humanitarian distress, Rycroft said. “It was also a strong effort to save lives, by ensuring such acts never happen again.”
Rycroft also blasted Russia for its support of Assad.
“Russia has given Assad everything he could dream of,” Rycroft said. “Without Russia’s seven vetoes in the Security Council, defying the views of other members of this council, Assad would now have faced sanctions and justice.”
He added, “Russia sits here today humiliated by its failure to bring to heel a puppet dictator, entirely propped up by Russia itself and Hezbollah and Iran,” he said.