Nikki Haley: US ‘locked and loaded’ to strike Syria again if new chemical attack

US ambassador to the UN says Washington will not hesitate to act against Damascus, following joint dawn operation with Britain, France

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during UN Security Council meeting, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018. (AFP/ HECTOR RETAMAL)
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during UN Security Council meeting, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018. (AFP/ HECTOR RETAMAL)

The United States warned Saturday that it was “locked and loaded,” ready to launch more military strikes on Syria if President Bashar Assad’s forces carry out a new chemical weapons attack.

“If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told a Security Council meeting.

The emergency session was called by Russia which demanded the Security Council condemn the “aggression” against Syria following from military strikes overnight Friday-Saturday carried out by the United States, Britain, and France in a joint operation which came in response to an alleged recent chemical weapons attack.

Russia’s draft text for a resolution “condemns the aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic by the US and its allies in violation of international law and the UN Charter.”

It “demands that the US and its allies immediately and without delay cease the aggression against the Syrian Arab republic and demands also to refrain from any further use of force in violation of international law and the UN charter.”

Britain too defended the strikes, with Britain’s UN ambassador saying Saturday that it was “both right and legal” to launch strikes to alleviate humanitarian suffering.

“The United Kingdom believes that it was both right and legal to take military action together with our closest allies to alleviate further humanitarian suffering,” British Ambassador Karen Pierce told reporters ahead of the Security Council meeting.

The strikes carried out by the United States, Britain, and France were aimed at “degrading the Syrian regime’s capability and deterring the use of chemical weapons,” she said.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, listens during a UN Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018. (AFP/ HECTOR RETAMAL)

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that the joint military strikes on Syrian targets were a success and that the mission’s goals have been achieved.

Parly spoke Saturday at a news conference following a defense council meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and other officials. She said, “Syria’s ability to design, produce and stockpile chemical weapons has been greatly diminished.”

“The mission is a success. Its military objectives are achieved,” she said.

On Friday, the United States, Britain, and France made the case at a council meeting for military action, arguing that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces had used toxic gases multiple times in violation of international law.

Russia countered that the US-led action was aimed at overthrowing Assad and keeping Moscow’s influence in check.

In a statement issued by the Kremlin earlier Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the emergency Security Council meeting and said the strikes had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.” He reaffirmed Russia’s view that a purported chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma that prompted the strike was fake.

Putin added that Russian military experts who inspected Douma found no trace of the attack. He criticized the US and its allies for launching the strikes without waiting for inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog to visit the area.

The UN Security Council meets on April 14, 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP/ HECTOR RETAMAL)

US President Donald Trump announced the joint action against Assad’s regime from the White House late Friday. He said the strikes were a direct response to the April 7 attack on Douma, outside Damascus, that rescuers and monitors say killed more than 40 people.

“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,” Trump said.

The strikes were the biggest foreign military action so far against Syria’s regime.

The targets included a scientific research facility near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs, and a third location near Homs that contained both a command post and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility, the US military said.

The facilities hit had however reportedly been evacuated in recent days.

On Saturday, Trump hailed the US-led missile assault as perfectly executed.

“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.

“Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White later told reporters that the US, Britain, and France “successfully hit every target,” countering claims that some missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defenses.

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