by Tom O’Connor
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
to the United Nations Nikki Haley has railed against the Syrian government's
recently intensified campaign to retake the insurgent-held district of eastern
Ghouta outside Damascus, accusing Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies
of mounting civilian casualties. As a fellow permanent U.N.
Security Council member, Russia has vetoed a number of resolutions targeting
Assad's government and has accused the insurgents of shelling nearby Damascus
city. Haley also blamed Russia for breaking a 30-day ceasefire agreement
reached earlier this month.
international community consistently fails to act, there are times when states
are compelled to take their own action," Haley told the U.N. Security
Council on Monday, citing the current situation in eastern Ghouta as an example
of this, as The Hill reported.
any nation determined to impose its will through chemical attacks and inhuman
suffering, but most especially the outlaw Syrian regime, the United States
remains prepared to act if we must," she added. "It is not a path we
prefer. But it is a path we have demonstrated we will take, and we are prepared
to take again."
Russia has taken
this as a sign that the U.S. was planning to attack Syrian military forces as
it did in April, following charges that the Syrian airforce used sarin gas in
the northwestern rebel-held district of Idlib, something Russia and Syria have
denied. Less than 72 hours after the U.S. accused Syria of being behind
the attack, Trump ordered a cruise missile strike from Navy warships in
disagreement that has become characteristic of U.S. and Russian involvement in
Syria, Washington claimed that it had used a previously established
de-confliction line to warn Russia of the attack. But Moscow denied this,
saying Russian personnel at the targeted Al-Shayrat air base were put at risk.
Ford Williams/U.S. Navy/REUTERS
In response to Haley's warning at the U.N., the Russian Foreign Ministry also pledged a forceful response to any U.S. attack that threatened Russian troops who were stationed throughout Syrian military frontlines near Damascus. Accusing a "belligerent" Haley of promoting "criminal actions" in Syria, the ministry said "in this case, required retaliatory measures will be taken," Tass reported.
"If a new strike of this kind takes place, the consequences will be very serious," Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a separate statement also carried by Tass.
"Mrs. Haley should understand that it is one thing to irresponsibly exploit the microphone in the U.N. Security Council and it is another thing when both the Russian and American militaries have communication channels and it is clearly stated via these channels what can be done and what must not be done," he added.
Russia intervened in Syria in 2015 at Assad's request, helping him overcome a 2011 uprising sponsored by the West, Turkey and Gulf Arab states. As lines blurred between the mainstream Syrian opposition and jihadis groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), the U.S. switched its focus from regime change to defeating ISIS via support for a mostly Kurdish coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.
But Turkey, a U.S. ally and fellow NATO Western military alliance member, has objected to Washington's support for Kurdish militias, which Ankara accused of harbouring ties to the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). A joint Turkish and Syrian rebel attack on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin has drawn Kurdish fighters away from the U.S.-led coalition fight against ISIS and into an alliance with Assad against Turkey.
Institute for the Study of War/Reuters