Russia faces fresh sanctions for Syria chemical attack, says US ambassador

Washington - The US Treasury Department will announce fresh sanctions on Monday on Russia related to its involvement in Syria’s use of chemical weapons, US United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said.

“Russian sanctions will be coming down, Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn’t already and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use,” Haley said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” referring to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The US previously expelled Russian diplomats and sanctioned Russia for a suspected nerve-agent attack against a former spy in Britain and other actions. Syria has refused to negotiate, and it’s time for Russia, a Syrian ally, to make that happen because Russia can’t cover up anymore, Haley said.

While President Donald Trump declared “mission accomplished” on Twitter Saturday, after the US, France and the U.K. launched military strikes Friday night in response to a suspected chemical attack on civilians by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Haley said the US is not finished there.

“We of course know that our work in Syria is not done,” Haley said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We have to be very conscious of the fact that we can’t allow even the smallest use of chemical weapons.”

Assad unpredictable

Haley declined to say whether there would be an automatic response because “we don’t know” what Assad will do. But Haley repeated a comment she made Saturday at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York that the US is “locked and loaded” and ready to punish Syria again if it continues using chemical weapons.

Trump on Sunday defended his use on Twitter of the term “mission accomplished,” the same one former President George W. Bush’s prematurely used two months after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The president said Sunday on Twitter that he knew the media would seize on it “but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!”

Even so, former CIA Director John Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that while the attack on Syria was “a tactical and surgical success,” it would be “pretty easy” for Syria to reconstitute its chemical weapons program.

‘Justifiable’ Strikes

Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who typically votes with Democrats, said it’s impossible to say at this point that the mission has been accomplished, noting the US also struck Syria with missiles last year after an apparent chemical attack.

“Saying that it has been a success, we won’t know until we see whether the regime continues to use chemical weapons,” King said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said on ABC’s “This Week” that while the air strikes on Syria were proportional and justifiable, they don’t “solve the problem that we do not have an overall comprehensive strategy for dealing with Syria.”

Trump previously has said he wanted US troops out of Syria quickly, but Haley said there’s no timetable for withdrawal. The US is committed to stopping the use of chemical weapons, defeating Islamic State and ensuring Iran doesn’t seize influence in the region, Haley said.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said she would be “uncomfortable” if Trump wants to commit additional ground troops in Syria and that the president needs to work with Congress on further action.

“The president does need to come to Congress and we need to have those discussions,” Ernst said on “Meet the Press.”

With Russia aiding Syria and the the US and Russia already embroiled over fights over sanctions, “this is a very strained time” between the two countries, Haley said on Fox.

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