The United Nations Security Council rejected a Russian resolution that would condemn “aggression” by the U.S. and its allies against Syria on Saturday.
The vote reflected support for the airstrikes on Syrian chemical sites but also again demonstrated the paralysis of the U.N.’s most powerful body in dealing with the seven-year-long Syrian conflict.
Coordinated American, French and British airstrikes were launched late Friday to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for the suspected use of chemical weapons on his own people earlier this month in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, and to deter him from further use of chemical weapons. The Pentagon on Saturday said the strikes set the country’s chemical weapons capability back “for years”.
On Saturday afternoon at the U.N. in New York City, Russia’s demand for condemnation and an immediate halt to “aggression” and “any further use of force” by the U.S., Britain and France received support from only two other countries on the 15-member council — China and Bolivia.
In contrast, eight nations voted against Russia — the U.S., Britain, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Kuwait, Poland and Ivory Coast. Four countries abstained — Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea and Peru.
The vote came at the end of an emergency meeting called by Moscow.
Russia and its close ally Syria called the attack fabricated and said no evidence of chemical weapons use in Douma exists.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley countered this claims, telling the council “there is clear information demonstrating Assad’s culpability.”
Ms. Haley added that President Trump told her Saturday morning that if the Syrian regime uses poisonous gas again “the United States is locked and loaded” to strike again.
After the vote, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the meeting confirmed that the U.S. and its allies “continue to put international politics and diplomacy in the realm of myth-making — myths invented in London, Paris and Washington.” He accused the allies of violating the U.N. Charter and international law.
Reaction from the international community to the strikes has ranged widely on Saturday.
From Moscow, President Vladimir Putin denounced the operation as “an act of aggression” but officials also noted that no Russian military assets had been threatened. International relations analysts interpreted that as meaning Russian escalation or retaliation has been greatly reduced.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted a message of support and said those who use chemical weapons “must be held accountable”.
From Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed support, as did German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called the strikes “necessary and appropriate”.
On Capitol Hill in Washington, however, the strikes ignited a fresh debate over the scope of the war on terror and just how far the Trump Administration can commit U.S. forces to an undeclared war in the Middle East.
Some leading Democrats accused Mr. Trump of “unconstitutional” military action and argued that he should have come to Congress before ordering the attack.
• This story is based in part on Associated Press dispatches.