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Nikki Haley: US 'Locked and Loaded' If Syria Uses Chemical Weapons Again

Nikki Haley: US 'Locked and Loaded' If Syria Uses Chemical Weapons Again

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

By    |   Saturday, 14 April 2018 03:55 PM

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said Saturday that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people again.

"The Security Council has failed in its duty to hold those who use chemical weapons to account," Haley said at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council that was called by Russia over Friday night's strikes. "That failure is largely due to Russian obstruction."

Moscow, China and Russia condemned the strikes on three of Syria's chemical weapons operations in or near Damascus by the U.S., France and Britain.

More than 100 missiles — double the number in last year's attack over Assad's use of sarin gas — hit the three targets, Pentagon officials said.

The Security Council rejected a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of the "aggression" by the Western allies.

As of Saturday, neither Syria nor its Russian or Iranian allies retaliated, U.S. officials said, though Assad has denied that he used chemical weapons in the April 7 attack in Douma that killed as many as 70 people and injured 1,000 others.

The U.S. says it suspects that sarin gas was also used.

"Last night, we obliterated the major research facility that it used to assemble weapons of mass murder," Haley said Saturday.

"I spoke to the president this morning — and he said that if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.

"When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line," she said.

"Chemical weapons are a threat to us all," Haley later added. "They are unique threat, a type of weapon so evil that the international community agreed they must be banned.

"We cannot stand by and let Russia trash every international norm that we stand for."

President Donald Trump on Saturday praised the "perfectly executed strike" before lauding U.S. forces in the effort and declaring, "Mission Accomplished!" on Twitter:

The Pentagon said allied strikes hit three targets: the Barzah chemical weapons research and development site in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage operation near Homs and a chemical weapons "bunker" a few miles from the second target.

Although officials said the singular target was Assad’s chemical weapons capability, his air force, including helicopters he allegedly has used to drop chemical weapons on civilians, were spared.

In last year's strikes, the Pentagon said missiles took out nearly 20 percent of the Syrian air force.

Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said Saturday that 105 U.S. and allied missiles were fired, of which 66 were Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from aboard three U.S. Navy ships and one Navy submarine.

In addition, U.S., British and French attack aircraft, including two U.S. Air Force B-1B strategic bombers, launched stealthy, long-range missiles from outside Syrian airspace, he said.

McKenzie said the allies "took out the heart" of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.

He said the missiles hit the "sweet spot," doing the expected level of damage while minimizing the unintentional release of toxic fumes that could be harmful to nearby civilians. However, McKenzie acknowledged that some unspecified portion of Assad’s chemical arms infrastructure was not targeted.

"There is still a residual element of the Syrian program that is out there," he said, adding: "I’m not going to say they’re going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future.

"I suspect, however they’ll think long and hard about it."

Assad’s Barzah research and development center in Damascus was destroyed, McKenzie said.

"It does not exist anymore."

The U.S.-led operation won broad Western support. The NATO alliance gave its full backing, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg saying in Brussels that the attack was about ensuring that chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack "necessary and appropriate."

But Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed the Kremlin’s skepticism about the allies’ Douma claim, saying Russian military experts had found no trace of the attack.

He again criticized the U.S. and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for international inspectors to complete their visit to the area.

British Prime Minister Theresa May countered that little doubt existed that the Syrian government used a barrel bomb — large containers packed with fuel, explosives and metal scraps — to deliver the chemicals at Douma.

"No other group" could have carried out the attack, May said, adding that the allies' use of force was "right and legal."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said Saturday that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people again.
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Saturday, 14 April 2018 03:55 PM
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