The United States is “locked and loaded” and won’t hesitate to strike Syria again if President Bashar al-Assad’s government decides to use chemical weapons against his own people, warned U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Speaking at an emergency Security Council meeting that was called by Russia, Haley praised the attacks by the United States, France, and Britain late Friday and made clear they may not be the last. “We are confident that we have crippled Syria’s chemical weapons program. We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will,” she said. “If the Syrian regime uses this poison gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.”
Earlier, the Pentagon had said that the more than 100 missiles fired at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities hit the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons network although it also warned that Assad’s government likely still retained some “residual” capacity. Meanwhile, the more than 40 surface-to-air missiles that were fired by Syria had “no material effect” on the attack, according to the Pentagon. “These strikes were justified, legitimate and proportionate response to the Syrian regime’s continued use of chemical weapons on its own people,” Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told reporters. There were no immediate reports of casualties as it seems the buildings that were hit had all been evacuated in advance.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said the military action involved a “limited and targeted strike,” noting there had been “no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.” May highlighted that the strike “was not about interfering in a civil war. And it was not about regime change.”
The attacks were ultimately smaller than many analysts had predicted, as many had said that the United States needed to be tougher than it was a year ago. Rebels and opposition politicians in Syria also said the strikes should have gone further and attacked the Syrian government’s conventional weapons capabilities, which have ultimately killed far more people during the seven-year-old war. “Maybe the regime will not use chemical weapons again, but it will not hesitate to use weapons,” opposition leader Nasr al-Hariri said. Rebels on the ground expect a surge in attacks against their strongholds as retaliation for the airstrikes.