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Haley tells world U.S. is 'locked and loaded' if Syria uses chemical weapons again

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the U.S. is "prepared to sustain this pressure if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will."
by Safia Samee Ali and Chelsea Bailey /  / Updated 
Image: Syria Attack
A photo released on April 14, 2018 via the twitter page of the Syrian governments central military media shows an explosion on the outskirts of Damascus after Western strikes reportedly hit Syrian military bases and chemical research centres in and around the capital.AFP - Getty Images

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President Donald Trump wants the world to know the United States is "locked and loaded" and prepared to strike Syria again if the Assad regime targets civilians with chemical weapons, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Saturday.

"When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line," Haley said at an emergency United Nations security meeting. "We are prepared to sustain this pressure if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will."

The U.N. Security Council rejected Russia's resolution to condemn coalition forces — made up of the U.S., U.K. and France — for launching joint airstrikes in Syria early Saturday that targeted chemical research and weapons facilities.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia's U.N. ambassador, took a sharp tone with the West and accused the airstrike coalition of violating international law when it launched its operation — a response to a suspected chemical weapons attack last week by the government in Syria.

"Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria," Antonov said through an interpreter before resolution vote. "Through its actions the United States makes an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria worse and brings suffering to civilians."

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari called the United States hypocritical for using chemical weapons and said the coalition is "dragging the entire world, once again, towards the abyss of war and aggression."

But ambassadors for both Britain and France defended the joint strike and said the military action sought to make clear the world condemns President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons. Syria has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons against its people.

"The Syrian regime and its supporters are responsible for the greatest violations of international humanitarian law in modern history," said Karen Pierce, Britain's U.N. representative.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that the airstrikes were justified. She, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron held conversations Saturday in which Macron's office said the three countries' military forces had "excellent coordination."

Macron said the April 7 chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians was in "total violation of international law."

"The red line declared by France in May 2017 has been crossed," he said in an earlier statement.

But Syrian state media called the airstrikes a "flagrant violation of international law."

Trump assigned Russia with much of the blame for not stopping the chemical attack, which the U.S. believes involved sarin and chlorine, according to senior administration officials briefed Saturday afternoon. Pentagon officials said one of the three facilities targeted by the coalition strike in western Syria was used in the production of sarin, a nerve agent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the raids as aggression that will make the humanitarian crisis in Syria worse. He added that the airstrikes had a "destructive influence on the entire system of international relations."

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the airstrikes as "genocide."

The Iraqi foreign ministry was also forceful in its criticism of the joint airstrikes as "dangerous behavior," and warned of the repercussions on the stability and security of the region.

Britain's opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, head of the left-wing Labour Party, offered a rare dissenting voice from the West.

"Bombs won't save lives or bring about peace," he said. "This legally questionable action risks escalating further ... an already devastating conflict and therefore makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less, not more likely."

"Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump," he added.

Israel, a close U.S. ally that has also engaged in its own brushes with Syria, commended the swift response.

Before the airstrikes, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out joining any military action against Assad, but said she supports efforts to show that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.

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