NEW YORK – A war of words between the United States and Russia continued on Saturday at the United Nations Security Council, in the wake of the Western military attack against Syria hours earlier.
Initiated by the Russian government, the meeting was convened after the US, along with France and Britain, launched a bevy of air strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad in retaliation for his alleged use of a chemical weapons attack last week in the Damascus suburb of Douma that left 75 people dead.
After listening to scathing remarks delivered by Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia about America’s “hooliganism” and “illegal” actions against the Syrian regime, the US responded by saying that the “time for talk ended last night.”
“The United States is locked and loaded,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Security Council. “When our president draws a redline, our president enforces a redline.”
“We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will,” she said.
Haley continued by saying that the White House is holding Damascus accountable for its “barbaric inhumanity,” adding that the West will not sit idly by as vicious dictators murder their own people with illegal weapons.
“The US, UK and France acted after a careful evaluation of the facts,” which included separate and independent studies commissioned by the three allies.
Noting that Washington “had done everything in its power to settle the dispute diplomatically,” Haley pointed out that Russia repeatedly vetoed attempts to condemn the Syrian regime at the Security Council over the past week, providing Assad diplomatic cover to continue carrying out its vicious military campaign against his own people.
This led to Assad “acting with impunity,” Haley claimed, with the Kremlin signaling to Damascus that it had a “green light” to carry out attacks without inhibition.
Nebenzia opened the meeting by delivering a blistering attack against the US and its allies, describing the air strikes as an “aggressive action” that lacked a “UN or international mandate.”
“Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria,” Nebenzia continued, claiming that while the US “panders” to Islamic fundamentalists, Syria continues to fight “on the front lines against terrorism.”
Nebenzia continuously referred to the “illegal” actions of the US against Syria, claiming that Washington’s “illicit aims” were part of its “mendacious” foreign policy pursuits that work to “undermine the UNSC,” adding that its actions are the worst kind of “hooliganism.”
Before the meeting on Saturday, Haley told reporters huddled outside the Security Council chamber that Assad employed the use of chemical weapons because “it was the quickest way to eliminate his opponents.”
“Why do we think this is important? Because this is getting to be too normal,” she added.
HALEY’S COMMENTS echoed much of her statements delivered just 24 hours earlier at the Security Council, where she accused Damascus of using banned chemical weapons at least 50 times.
“Russia can complain all it wants about fake news, but no one is buying its lies and its cover-ups,” Haley said. “Russia was supposed to guarantee Assad would not use chemical weapons, and Russia did the opposite.”
Haley also said that Moscow was complicit in covering up alleged war crimes committed by the Damascus, which the UN reports are responsible for the deaths of more than 500,000 Syrian civilians over the past seven years.
“Why are you seeking to plunge the Middle East into such difficulties, provoking one conflict after another, pitting one state against another?” Nebenzia said during the meeting on Friday.
Like Saturday, the meeting was initiated by the Russian government in an effort to stave off an escalation in hostilities between Moscow and the West, which has been simmering over the past several years.
Those tensions came to a head later Friday evening after US President Donald Trump ordered the military to strike several targets inside Syria.
“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by the very terrible regime. The evil and despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air,” Trump said in a televised address to the American people from the White House.
“These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster, instead,” he said.
Trump also dedicated a portion of his prepared statement to call out Iran and Russia, Assad’s strongest allies, for aligning themselves with “barbarism and brutality,” adding that the United States and its allies in the strike, France and Britain, are prepared “to sustain this response” until the Syrian regime halts its use of internationally prohibited chemical weapons.
“What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?” Trump asked. “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.”
Hours after the military operation was completed, Russian President Vladamir Putin condemned the US and its allies for what it called an “act of aggression” that will exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader said the assault was a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations,” adding that allegations of a purported chemical attack on the Syrian city of Douma were unfounded.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Saturday that “The situation in the Middle East is in such chaos that it has become a threat to international peace and security. And today, Syria represents the most serious dimension of that threat.”
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