Haley: Russia thwarts U.N. action on Syria atrocity

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, condemned Russia’s refusal to hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians, including many children, in the rebel-held region of Idlib Tuesday.

At an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council Wednesday, Haley held graphic photos of the Syrian victims, insisting “We cannot close our eyes to those pictures.”

“This Security Council thinks of itself as a defender of peace, security and human rights,” she said. “We will not deserve that description if we do not rise to action today.”

Ambassador Nikki Haley shows pictures of Syrian chemical attack victims to the U.N. Security Council
Ambassador Nikki Haley shows pictures of Syrian chemical attack victims to the U.N. Security Council. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In the wake of Tuesday’s attack, the U.S. joined Britain and France in blaming the Syrian government for the attack, which Haley called “a new low , even for the barbaric Assad regime.” However, their attempt to assign blame was quickly challenged by the Russian government — an ally of the Assad regime — which suggested that the poison gas actually belonged to the rebels and leaked when Syrian bombs hit an insurgent weapons depot, an explanation rejected by witnesses and international health experts.

“Time and time again, Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their allies in Damascus,” Haley said, calling Russia’s defense of the Syrian government “unconscionable.”

“How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked. “If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims to have, we need to see them use it. We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts.”

While Haley implored her fellow Security Council members to “take collective action” against Syria to prevent further use of chemical weapons, she also suggested that if the council failed to enforce a resolution, the U.S. may choose to act unilaterally.

“When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,” she said, offering no elaboration on what that would entail.

Haley’s rebuke suggested that the Trump administration may be rethinking its hands-off approach to the Syrian government and its Russian allies.

After initially blaming former President Obama for declining to intervene in Syria over Assad’s use of chemical weapons back in 2012, Trump acknowledged at a press conference Wednesday that America’s response to Syria “is now my responsibility.”

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” Trump said, adding that the images coming out of Syria, particularly of child victims hit by the poisonous chemicals, had “a big impact” on him.

“That was a horrible, horrible thing, and I’ve been watching it and seeing it. And it doesn’t get any worse than that,” he said. “And I have that flexibility. And it’s very, very possible and I will tell you it’s already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

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