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April 4, 2018 3:09 pm

Haley Assails Assad Regime’s Use of Chemical Weapons, Amid Uncertainty Over Trump’s Stance on Syria

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US Ambassador Nikki Haley addressing the UN Security Council. Photo: Reuters / Mike Segar.

Amid uncertainty over the future direction of US policy in Syria, Nikki Haley — the US Ambassador to the UN — issued a stinging rebuke on Wednesday to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime over its continued use of chemical weapons.

“We must not forget that while we sit here debating chemical weapons, there are people on the front lines in Syria who are facing the terrifying reality of those heinous weapons,” Haley declared at a meeting of the UN Security Council marking the first anniversary of the massacre at Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Syria — in which 80 people were killed and hundreds more badly wounded after Syrian Air Force planes dropped a deadly nerve agent on rebel-held areas.

Despite a September 2013 agreement between Russia and the Obama administration for Moscow to remove chemical weapons stockpiles out of the Assad regime’s control, dozens of deadly attacks using chemical weapons were reported in Syria during 2016 and 2017, with at least three so far this year.

Describing the Iranian and Russian-backed Assad presidency as a “regime that uses chemical weapons practically every other week,” Haley warned that “our lack of action has consequences.”

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“When we let one regime off the hook, others take notice,” she added, in a reference to Russia’s alleged involvement in the deadly use of a chemical nerve agent against a former KGB officer in the UK on March 4.

“Even with all of the profound divisions on this council, the United States refuses to believe that we cannot come together once again to stop chemical weapons,” Haley urged. “Not just to protect the Syrian people, but to protect us all.”

Other State Department officials echoed Haley’s condemnation of the government in Damascus. “The Assad regime has blatantly violated the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council resolutions, and no drumbeat of nonsensical claims by either the regime or its protectors can hide this truth,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert declared in a statement.

Nauert charged that “Russia continues to shield its Syrian ally by openly impeding international efforts to hold the Assad regime responsible for these heinous attacks.”

Wednesday’s comments came amid continuing Israeli and Saudi unease over US President Donald Trump’s pledge last week to withdraw US troops from Syria, where Iran and its allies have become entrenched in the wake of the extensive defeats inflicted upon ISIS.

In a call on Tuesday, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “agreed to continue their close coordination on countering Iran’s malign influence and destabilizing activities,” according to a White House statement.

On Wednesday, a White House official said that Trump was not looking to set a specific date for the withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops presently deployed in Syria.

“We’re not going to immediately withdraw but neither is the president willing to back a long-term commitment,” the official noted.

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