UN Ambassador Nikki Haley described Friday’s airstrikes on chemical weapons production and storage sites as a “cumulative” response to at least 30 attacks using chlorine or sarin deployed by the Assad regime over the past year.
“We had up until this point had six different resolutions that would have dealt with investigative mechanisms for chemical weapons, and Russia had vetoed all of them,” Haley told CBS on Sunday.
“And so we felt like we had gone through every diplomatic measure of talking that we could, and it was time for action,” she added. “And I think one thing that we hope Assad got the message on is the international community will not allow chemical weapons to come back into our everyday life, and the fact that he was making this more normal and that Russia was covering it up, all of that has to stop.”
Haley noted that “Russian sanctions will be coming down” related to “any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used.”
“And so I think everyone is going to feel it at this point,” she said. “I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message, and our hope is that they listen to it.”
The ambassador argued that the limited airstrikes were a “very strong attack” considering “we were not looking for war.”
“That’s the last thing the president wanted was war. We were not looking to kill people. That was not something that in our American values we would want to do,” Haley said. “We wanted to send a strong message that they needed to stop the chemical weapons program. We wanted — with the political and diplomatic actions that we’re taking now, we wanted their friends Iran and Russia to know that we meant business and that they were going to feel the pain from this as well.”
“But our goal is not to start war. And our goal is not to kill people. Our goal is to send a very strong message to Assad and his friends that we are not going to watch them continue to use chemical weapons on their people.”
Haley said at a UN Security Council meeting on Saturday that the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to respond again if Syria uses chemical weapons again.
She said Sunday that “our job was never to take Assad out” but to encourage a diplomatic settlement.
“We feel very good about the message that was sent. It is now up to Bashar al-Assad to see if he’s smart enough to receive that message,” she added, noting “we would never want to have direct talks with Syria at this point. They’re not worthy of talks with the United States. They have done nothing but brutalize their people and destroy their land, all in the name of power.”