Haley acknowledged regional concerns and said, “We all know our work in Syria is not done.”
BY MICHAEL WILNER APRIL 15, 2018 20:48 Via The Jerusalem Post
WASHINGTON – Deterring Iran’s entrenchment in Syria is one of US President Donald Trump’s top three priorities there, guiding his policy-making on where to station troops in the war-torn country and for how long, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley asserted on Sunday.
Her statement comes amid reports of strains between the Trump administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over the US role in providing a buffer between Iranian troops and Israel’s border. Trump in recent weeks has vowed to pull US troops out of Syria entirely, prompting alarm in Jerusalem that Israel’s fight against Iran would be waged alone.
In interviews with a series of Sunday morning shows, Haley touted the success of a joint strike conducted by US, French and British forces over the weekend that sought to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for his use of chlorine and sarin gases against civilians in the town of Douma on April 7.
She said the strike was prompted by the president’s commitment to prevent the normalization of chemical weapons use, calling it a top priority of his administration.
A second priority, Haley said, was the complete defeat of Islamic State forces that once held territory in Syria.
“Then, thirdly, we want to make sure that the influence of Iran doesn’t take over the area,” she said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “They continue to cause problems throughout the region, and we want to make sure that there is a hold.”
The allied strike on Assad’s chemical weapons infrastructure set the program back “years,” Haley said. The ambassador ruled out direct US talks with Assad over ending the conflict because of his “brutality” in targeting innocents throughout the course of the war.
Haley said the operation was not intended to overthrow the embattled dictator or “start a new war” in a country now seven years into a bloody conflict among forces loyal to Assad, opposition groups and terrorist organizations.
It was rather meant to send a message that “the president is watching,” Haley said. Assad, she continued, “now dictates his own life.”
Regional powers responded to the strike with a collective shrug, as even the Pentagon acknowledged the attack would not necessarily prevent Assad from continuing to deploy chemical arms.
Netanyahu, for his part, welcomed the strike, while adding that Iran’s march across Syria was of equal concern to Assad’s use of chemical weapons – and equally warranted military action.
Haley acknowledged regional concerns in her interviews and said, “We all know our work in Syria is not done.”
Friday’s precision strike volleyed more than 100 missiles at three targets that US officials said were critical to Assad’s chemical weapons program, including a research and development center, processing facilities and storage facilities.
“This was not muscle flexing,” Haley told CBS’s Margaret Brennan. “We set their chemical weapons program back years.”