U.N. Security Council Meets Over Syrian Strikes
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Russia is protesting the airstrikes in Syria, accusing the U.S., the United Kingdom and France of violating international law. Moscow's called an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, which is happening right now. Another diplomatic showdown, the council has been divided throughout the war. That was clear again today. We're now joined by NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. Michele, thanks so much for joining us.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Good morning.
SIMON: What would Russia like the Security Council to do?
KELEMEN: Well, it wants the council to condemn what it's calling an act of aggression and an act that it says violates international law, but with three permanent members involved in this military action, there's really no chance of that. Just take a listen to what U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley had to say.
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NIKKI HALEY: The United Kingdom, France and the United States acted not as revenge, not as punishment, not as a symbolic show of force. We acted to deter the future use of chemical weapons by holding the Syrian regime responsible for its atrocities against humanity.
KELEMEN: And, you know, Russia has all-along been saying that there is no evidence of a chemical weapons attack. Haley today said Russia's disinformation campaign is in full force.
SIMON: Has the secretary general of the U.N. weighed in?
KELEMEN: He has. He's treading very carefully, I have to say. He's reminding Security Council members that the U.N. Charter is clear about when force is authorized, but he also points out that the use of chemical weapons is abhorrent - that was the word that he used - and the council needs to come together on that. He's been very worried about this deep divide in the council over what to do with Syria.
SIMON: And, of course, the strikes occur while international inspectors are still on the ground in Syria. Do they continue to do their work?
KELEMEN: They are. They say they are. It's the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. They're going to be going to Duma. One of the problems has been that they don't have the authorization to determine who is responsible for this attack, but to determine what - whether there was attack and what kind of chemical was used. And I should note that the Trump administration was saying, even as of yesterday, that it didn't really know what chemical was used in the attack last weekend.
SIMON: Yeah. President Macron of France has said that French intelligence has contributed intelligence which he finds beyond reproach, right?
KELEMEN: Well, all - and the U.S. says that it has evidence that it hasn't shared with others.
SIMON: President Trump on Twitter today said, mission accomplished - a phrase that doesn't - perhaps doesn't reassure a lot of people. This war in Syria has gone on for seven years, costing hundreds of millions.
SIMON: Is there a strategy that major powers have to try and bring it to a close?
KELEMEN: Well, we've heard for years that they - there needs to be a political solution to this. That was repeated again today. The problem is that major world powers, as you can see, can't even agree on the basic facts about whether chemical weapons are used, so it's hard to see how this ends.
And Russia and Iran have helped Bashar al-Assad turn the tide in this war with military help, with diplomatic cover at the United Nations. So it's not really clear whether he's at all interested in negotiating an end to this conflict.
SIMON: And certainly people in the Syrian opposition have said that while the strikes are welcome, it doesn't materially change the strength of their position.
KELEMEN: And even the people who are involved - I mean, the British prime minister, Theresa May, was saying this isn't about regime change. This isn't about entering the civil war. This was about one thing - stopping the future use of chemical weapons.
SIMON: NPR's Michele Kelemen, thanks so much for being with us.
KELEMEN: Thank you.
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