As foreign policy experts denounced the missile strikes ordered by President Donald Trump Friday night, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley further troubled critics on Saturday when she warned that the U.S. is prepared to attack the war-torn country again.
“I spoke to the US president this morning and he said that if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,” Haley intoned at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, referring to a suspected chemical attack that Trump has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of carrying out last weekend.
Her statement came before the Security Council voted against a Russian resolution that would have condemned the missile strikes, with eight nations rejecting the resolution, four abstaining, and three countries — Bolivia, China, and Russia — voting in favor of it.
Haley’s declaration was denounced by some of her counterparts at the UN, with Bolivian ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz expressing hope that international law would “prevail.”
“Her country is ready, is ‘locked and loaded,'” said Soliz. “Of course, we clearly heard her words with a great deal of concern and a great deal of sadness. We know that the United States has aircraft carriers, that they have satellites, that they have ‘intelligent missiles, smart bombs,’ they have a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons.”
Holding up the U.N. charter, which allows the use of military force for members only when necessary for self-defense or with the approval of the Security Council, Soliz concluded, “And we also know that they have nothing but scorn for international law, but we have this.”
Russia’s ambassador, Vasily A. Nebenzia, added that the airstrikes, carried out by the U.S. as well as the U.K. and France, amounted to “aggression against a sovereign state” without allowing the U.N. to investigate the suspected poison gas attack. A probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was set to begin Saturday.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged “restraint” at the meeting, and asked all nations “to avoid any acts that could escalate matters and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people.”
The British and French officials at the meeting joined Haley in defending their countries’ actions, calling the strikes “limited, targeted and effective” and claiming they had evidence of Assad’s responsibility for the chemical attack, with French ambassador François Delattre saying the gas attack tested “the threshold of the international community’s tolerance.”
“You can’t combat the alleged violation of international law by violating international law,” Soliz countered.
In the Middle East, the missile strikes were met with condemnation and anxiety over what the escalation could mean for the region.
“Such action could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria to retreat to a large extent,” said the Iraqi foreign ministry in a statement Saturday.