US Claims Assad Allegedly Used Chemical Weapons in Syria at Least 50 Times
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has told reporters that the president would not be 'rushed' into a military action in Syria over last week's alleged chemical attack, but added that "all nations and people" would suffer if the Syrian government was allowed to "normalize" the use of chemical weapons.
Haley confirmed that President Trump has not yet made a decision on possible US action in Syria. "Our President has not yet made a decision about possible action in Syria. But should the United States and our allies decide to act in Syria, it will be in defense of a principle on which we all agree," she told reporters on Friday.
"You don't rush decisions like this," the envoy emphasized, adding that premature action could lead to "a mistake."
"We have to know that there is proof and we have to know that we are taking every precaution necessary should we take action," she said, adding that she was "unbelievably proud" of the president and his ability not to let anyone "rush" him into a decision.
At the same time, Haley said that the US estimates that the Syrian government led by President Bashar Assad "has used chemical weapons in the Syrian war at least 50 times. Public estimates are as high as 200."
"All nations and all people will be harmed if we allow Assad to normalize the use of chemical weapons," she added.
According to the envoy, the president has met with National Security Council officials several times to consider US options.
Haley's remarks came ahead of a Security Council meeting called by Russia to discuss the dangers of a possible US-led military action in Syria over the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Eastern Ghouta on April 7.
Washington, Paris and London are contemplating a possible joint campaign of airstrikes against Syria over what they have classified as a chemical attack. Damascus has denied responsibility. Russia sent chemical defense specialists to Douma, finding no evidence that chemical weapons had been used. Further, Russian military police forces deployed to the region could not find anyone in Douma's hospitals suffering the effects of a chemical attack. Experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are expected to arrive Douma on Saturday.
Characterizing the Douma attack as a "planned provocation," the Russian military accused the US and British and French allies of failing to provide any proof of Syrian involvement, and said that it had evidence of London putting pressure on the White Helmets group to film the mock chemical attack and blame it on Damascus days before it was said to take place.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed Thursday that the US did not have direct evidence of chemical weapons being used in Douma, and was "still working on this." Also Thursday, President Trump backed down from earlier sentiments urging Russia to "get ready" for a US missile attack in Syria, tweeting that he "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!"