JERUSALEM, Israel – At a UN Security Council briefing on Syria Wednesday, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the situation on the ground is getting worse and preventing a peaceful solution there.
"Earlier this week, Iranian-backed militias in southern Syria launched a drone into Israeli territory," she said at the beginning of her remarks, calling it "an egregious and unprompted escalation."
She continued. "Iran is once again doing what it does – risking conflict and testing the will of its neighbors and opponents to resist its aggression. Israel rightly took action to defend itself."
Haley said the United States would always stand with its ally against provocations from Iran, Hezbollah or the Assad regime, which has become "a front for Iran, Hezbollah and their allies to advance the irresponsible and dangerous agenda for the Middle East."
"On every front of this conflict, we find fighters imported by Iran from Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan," Haley said. "When we see the Assad regime starving civilians in eastern Ghouta or pummeling schools and hospitals in Idlib, we see advisers from Iran and Hezbollah helping direct those atrocities."
In April 2017, a Sarin gas attack killed at least 90 Syrians, including many children, US and Israeli officials said at the time.
Haley said while the kind of support the Syrian regime has come to count on "isn't new," the drone incursion into Israeli airspace should be "a wake-up call for all of us."
Iran and Hezbollah are making plans to stay in Syria, she said, which doesn't bode well for the region.
"When we look out across the Middle East, we know one thing for certain. When Iran and Hezbollah move in, instability always follows," she said.
In her usual straightforward manner, Haley said, "We can't offer support for peace on the one hand and ignore the fact that the chief sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and its terrorist militia are digging in," she said. The fighting is getting worse and a lot of it is taking place in the "so-called de-escalation zones."
"Russia was supposed to guarantee adherence to these de-escalation zones to help the political process," Haley said, but Russia was also supposed to ensure that all chemical weapons would be removed from Syria – something that clearly has not happened. Instead, the Assad regime continues to bomb, starve and gas civilians, she said.
Less than two weeks ago, on February 4, Syria was implicated in a chlorine gas attack in the town of Saraqeb in the Idlib province, which killed at least 20 people, local Syrian sources reported.
Last September, Assad accused Israel of bombing a military site in northwestern Syria housing chemical weapons and missiles. There were other unconfirmed reports that Israel targeted a Hezbollah convoy in Lebanon transporting missiles, possibly tipped with chemical weapons.
Haley summarized her remarks by saying, "Ultimately, we must recognize that the Assad regime does not want peace unless it's peace on their terms – a peace in which every person in Syria who opposes the regime is murdered, tortured, starved, imprisoned or forced to flee the country.
To achieve real peace in Syria, she concluded, the regime must be pushed to do what it plainly does not want to do.
"The path is clear: follow Resolution 2254 [unanimously adopted on December 18, 2015, calling for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria] – support Geneva, and most of all push the Assad regime to do what it plainly does not want to do. If we rally around these goals, we will achieve real peace in Syria," Haley concluded.