US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addressed the Security Council Wednesday on the consequences of failing to act in response to chemical weapons attacks in Syria, as President Donald Trump considers whether and when to pull US troops out of the war-torn country.
"It is a sad fact that, just a few years ago, a single chemical weapons attack would have united us in shock and anger," said Haley. "It would have been enough for us to take immediate action. Now, we have a regime that uses chemical weapons practically every other week."
Haley's remarks come exactly one year after the sarin gas attack killed over 80 people in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, prompting Trump to strike a Syrian government air base with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Yet on Tuesday, Trump suggested at a news conference he wanted to remove US troops from Syria -- a move he says reflects progress in the US mission to confront the terror group ISIS, but critics say would further embolden the Assad regime and its main allies, Russia and Iran.
And while Trump privately told his national security team he was willing to keep troops there in the short-term, he made it clear he doesn't want them in Syria for the long-term and expects the costs of stabilizing Syria to be shouldered by regional players.
A statement from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday stated that "The military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed."
"We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans," the statement added. "We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges."
Chemical weapons attacks have become an all-to-frequent event in Syria since the country descended into civil war in 2011.
In October, a report from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations' Joint Investigative Mechanism confirmed international suspicions that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government was responsible for the sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun.
But the Russian government cast doubt on the report, and vetoed a Security Council resolution to extend the Joint Investigative Mechanism's mandate.
"Our lack of action has consequences," Haley said in her remarks Wednesday, linking the lack of concerted action in Syria to separate chemical weapons attacks in the United Kingdom and Malaysia, which targeted a former Russian double agent and the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un respectively.
Both of those attacks have been tied by authorities to state actors -- Russia and North Korea.
"When we let one regime off the hook, others take notice," said Haley. "The use of nerve agents in Salisbury and Kuala Lumpur proves this point, and reveals a dangerous trend: We are rapidly sliding backward, crossing back into a world we thought we left."
"No one wants to live in a world where chemical weapons are used. No one wants to live in fear that a colorless, shapeless gas will suddenly seep into our lungs and leave us gasping for air."
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