UN ambassador Nikki Haley seemed to hint at a possible US intervention in Syria on Wednesday during a UN Security Council meeting.
During her address to the council, Haley harshly condemned the gas attack in Syria that killed dozens on Tuesday.
She slammed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as “barbaric” and said Tuesday’s attack had “all the hallmarks of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.”
Assad was previously blamed by the international community for a chemical weapons attack that killed 1,400 Syrians on the outskirts of Damascus in 2013. A UN report last August explicitly singled out Assad’s forces and said they used chemical weapons in the town of Talmenes in 2014 and Sarmin in 2015.
“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,” Haley said, appearing to allude to the possibility of US intervention in Syria if its citizens continue to be attacked.
Haley also specifically singled out Russia and Iran for what she called complicity with the Assad regime.
“Iran has reinforced Assad’s military, and Russia has shielded Assad from UN sanctions,” she said.
Haley continued to unload on Russia – an ally of Assad – for its role in the crisis. “Just a few weeks ago, this council attempted to hold Assad responsible for suffocating his own people to death with toxic chemicals. Russia stood in the way of this accountability,” she said.
“They made an unconscionable choice. They chose to close their eyes to the barbarity … in fact, if Russia had been fulfilling its responsibility, there would not even be any chemical weapons left for the Syrian regime to use,” said Haley, referring to a deal brokered between the US and Russia to remove chemical weapons from Syria after Assad’s forces had been linked to chemical attacks, which crossed Obama’s “red line” in 2012.
Haley then held up pictures of children who had been injured in the chemical attack and asked, “How many more children have to die before Russia cares,” while looking at the Russian ambassador.
The Russian government has denied any responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, saying on Wednesday that the toxic gas was released accidentally when a Syrian air strike hit a “terrorist warehouse” containing “toxic substances.”
“According to the objective data of the Russian airspace control, Syrian aviation struck a large terrorist warehouse near Khan Shaykhun that housed a warehouse making bombs, with toxic substances,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.
Experts have cast doubt on the Russian government’s claim, calling it “fanciful” and saying that it would be “unsustainable” for a nerve agent like Sarin gas to spread as far as it did as the result of a bombing.
After Tuesday’s attack in Syria, the White House pinned the blame on the Obama administration, saying in a statement that the attack was “a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.