Columns

'Consequences Will be Dire' if Assad, Russia, Iran Attack Idlib, Haley Warns

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley at a briefing in New York on Sept. 4, 2018 (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP Images)

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley warned today at a UN Security Council briefing on Syria that an impending regime offensive “will only leave Syria weaker and more broken and create generations of Syrians who will never forget the heinous and senseless brutality of the Assad regime and its allies.”

About three million people live in northwestern Idlib province, one of the last strongholds of opposition forces who have been battling dictator Bashar al-Assad for years. Airstrikes were reported in the province today as the international community is trying to stop a major regime-Russia offensive that could be especially bloody and include more chemical weapons use by Assad.

“Any offensive is to us objectionable as a reckless escalation. There is lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared,” said Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, America’s newly appointed special representative to Syria.

Jeffrey said the U.S. is “not in a hurry to pull out” of Syria because ISIS, which the non-regime Syrian Democratic Forces have been fighting, is not defeated.

Haley said today that the “Assad regime and its enablers, Russia and Iran, have a playbook for this war.”

“First, they surround a civilian area. Next, they make the preposterous claim that everyone in the area is a terrorist, so every man, woman, and child becomes a target. Then comes the ‘starve and surrender’ campaign, where they keep attacking until the people no longer have food, clean water, or shelter. It’s a playbook of death. The Assad regime has spent the last seven years refining it with Russia and Iran’s help,” she said.

“The atrocities committed by Assad will be a permanent stain on history and a black mark for this council – which was blocked over and over by Russia from taking action to help,” she added.

Without elaborating on a potential U.S. response beyond condemnation, Haley warned “the consequences will be dire” if Assad, Russia and Iran attack.

“We heard earlier that 3 million people are at risk in Idlib – 99 percent innocent civilians. To put that in perspective, that is 7.5 times the number of people that the Assad regime put under siege in eastern Ghouta. It’s nearly 11 times the number of people the Assad regime trapped in eastern Aleppo. At the time, we said the level of civilian suffering was unbearable. If you can even imagine, Idlib would be even worse,” she continued. “The Assad regime must halt its offensive. Russia and Iran, as countries with influence over the regime, must stop this catastrophe. It is in their power to do so.”

She added that “when Russia and the Assad regime say they want to counter terrorism, they actually mean they want to bomb schools, hospitals, and homes.”

“They want to punish the civilians who had the courage to rise up against Assad. When the regime calls the brave White Helmets terrorists, we know they are not serious about fighting terrorism. The United States will not cooperate with Russia on the Assad regime’s slaughter of innocent civilians.”

Haley declared that U.S. taxpayers will not “subsidize Assad’s campaign of destruction” by ponying up funds Russia claims will be used for Syria reconstruction.

“For Russia, continuing to support this murderous dictator and isolating themselves from the international community is the wrong choice,” she said.