US trades barbs with Russia at UN Security Council after allied Syria strike

US trades barbs with Russia at UN Security Council after allied Syria strike
© Getty Images

The United States and its allies traded barbs with Russia at the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council on Saturday, hours after leaders in Washington, London and Paris ordered military strikes on strategic parts of the Syrian chemical weapons program.

The comments at the Security Council in New York were the latest in a bitter war of words over a suspected chemical weapons strike in the Damascus suburb of Douma last week that left dozens of civilians dead. 

In remarks at the emergency Security Council meeting on Saturday, Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyOvernight Defense: Air Force outlines plan for biggest force since end of Cold War | Trump admin slashes refugee cap | Mattis accuses Russia of meddling in Macedonia's NATO bid Nikki Haley accuses Russia of undermining international sanctions against North Korea NYT says it was unfair on Haley curtain story MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., decried Moscow's efforts to cover up the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people.

ADVERTISEMENT

She accused Russia of mounting an aggressive disinformation campaign in an effort to obscure evidence of Syrian President Bashar Assad's role in chemical strikes on Douma. 

"The pictures of dead children were not fake news," Haley said. "They were the result of the Syrian regime’s barbaric inhumanity. And they were the result of the regime and Russia’s failure to live up to their international commitments to remove all chemical weapons from Syria."

Haley also warned that President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE had told her that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" if the Syrian government mounted another chemical weapons attack.

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

Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian envoy to the U.N., sharply condemned the Friday-night strike on Syria carried out by the U.S. and its allies, saying that Washington's foreign policy is motivated by "neo-colonialism."

"This is how you want international affairs to be conducted now?" Nebenzia said. "This is hooliganism ... and not minor hooliganism, considering we’re talking about major nuclear powers."

Nebenzia also blasted the U.S., France and the U.K. for proceeding with the strike without allowing an international chemical weapons watchdog to complete its investigation into the attack on Douma. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons began a fact-finding mission in the Damascus suburb on Saturday.

U.S. officials have said that they are confident that Assad's government was behind last week's apparent chemical strike, though no evidence has been publicly disclosed. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Friday that the Trump administration has  a "very high confidence" in its assessment.

The Security Council meeting on Saturday was the panel's fifth regarding Syria in the past week alone. 

The allied strike on Syria was the second authorized by Trump in the span of roughly a year. He ordered a missile strike on a Syrian air base in April 2017 in response to another deadly chemical strike in northern Syria that left more than 80 civilians dead.

But the Friday-night strike was "double the size" of the 2017 attack, Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, said at a press briefing on Saturday. The strike targeted three facilities believed to be associated with Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

While officials said that the attack dealt a serious blow to Syria's chemical weapons program, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, acknowledged that Damascus may still retain "residual" elements of its chemical arsenal.

On Saturday morning, Trump declared the Friday-night operation in Syria a "perfectly executed strike," proclaiming: "Mission Accomplished!"