The missile strike launched by the US, Britain and France continues to puzzle.
It appears that no-one was killed during the strike, and that the only damage done was to a number of civilian buildings – first and foremost those of the Syrian Scientific Centre in Damascus – which according to reports the Syrian authorities – amply warned by the Russians, Western media reports and President Trump’s tweets – had evacuated three days before.
Meanwhile no part of the Syrian armed forces seems to have been damaged in the least. Where the strike on Al-Shayrat air base last year did at least do some damage to the base and did destroy a few aircraft, the latest strike has not damaged a single one.
The result is that 48 hours after the strike the Syrian air force is back in operation across Syria in full force. Here is how the normally reliable Al-Masdar news agency reports its activities
The Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) is back to launching airstrikes across Syria, following a short absence due to the US-led strikes on Syria.
Beginning in the northern countryside of the Homs Governorate, the Syrian Air Force launched at least a 50 airstrikes over the towns controlled by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham.In particular, the Syrian Air Force targeted the towns of Qunitrat, Al-Hamrat, Deir Ful, Izzeddine, and Majdal with at least three dozen airstrikes.
The Syrian Air Force would then carry several airstrikes in southern and western Idlib, southeast Hama, and northern Latakia; these strikes would specifically target jihadists from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP).
Due to the Turkish military’s presence in northern Syria, the Syrian Air Force is restricted from targeting certain areas because of the pact between Ankara and Moscow.
A military strike that has no effect whatsoever on the country which it is supposed to be attacking is or should be an object of bafflement.
The Western powers will no doubt say that the intention of the military strike was not to damage the Syrian military but to damage Syria’s ‘chemical weapons capabilities’. Even if that is true how destroying a few empty buildings is going to achieve that objective I am completely unable to see.
The alternative explanation is that the military strike was more ambitious than the US and the Western powers are admitting, and that the reason the Syrian air force and the Syrian military were untouched by it is because it was a failure.
The Russians and the Syrians claim that 71 out of the 105 missiles the Western powers launched at Syria were shot down by Syria’s air defence forces and that the major focus of the air attack was not the undefended civilian buildings which were destroyed, but Syria’s air bases, but that this part of the attack – which was the main part – utterly failed.
The US and the Western powers of course deny this, as they would be expected to do.
I am not a military analyst and I do not have access to the intelligence, but I do note that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – a resolutely anti-Assad organisation, which is normally accepted as reliable by the Western media – is backing the Russian and Syrian claims. Here is a supposed breakdown of the missiles which the Syrian air defence supposedly shot down and of their intended targets provided by someone who calls himself “Bundy” on its twitter feed
– Duwali airbase – 4/4
– Dumayr airbase – 12/12
– Baley airbase – 18/18
– Shayrat airbase – 12/12
– Mezzeh airbase (not used) – 5/9
– Homs airbase – 13/16 (slightly damaged)
– Barzeh and Jaramanieh – 7/30
– Marj Ruhayyil airbase – 18/18
– Damascus airport – 4/4
— Bundy☭ (@igybundy) April 14, 2018
I have no way of knowing how accurate or not this information is, but I record here without comment the comments of the Moon of Alabama, which has given this issue some thought
There is a very large discrepancy between the Russian Ministry of Defense report of strike and the description in the Pentagon briefing on the strike. According to the Pentagon only three places related to non-existing Syrian chemical weapons were targeted:
This combined military strike was directed against three distinct Syrian chemical weapons program targets.
In summary, in a powerful show of allied unity, we deployed 105 weapons against three targets.It does not make any sense to send 35 cruise missiles against each of those not hardened, not defended targets like the now destroyed Barzeh research center which was a small two story building complex (pic of destruction) and had been declared free of chemical weapons and weapon research by the OPCW. Why would the U.S. military use such a high number of precision weapons against only three targets? This is extremely unusual and does not make sense at all.
Four missiles targeted the Damascus International Airport; 12 missiles – the Al-Dumayr airdrome, all the missiles have been shot down.18 missiles targeted the Blai airdrome, all the missiles shot down.
12 missiles targeted the Shayrat air base, all the missiles shot down. Air bases were not affected by the strike.
Five out of nine missiles were shot down targeting the unoccupied Mazzeh airdrome.
Thirteen out of sixteen missiles were shot down targeting the Homs airdrome. There are no heavy destructions.
In total 30 missiles targeted facilities near Barzah and Jaramana. Seven of them have been shot down.
At least six airports were targeted according to the Russian report. The Pentagon reports no strike on Syrian airports but claims to have launched a way too high number of cruise missiles for each of the claimed three target. The Syrian opposition outlet SOHR reports of eight targets and says that at least 65 of the cruise missiles were downed by the Syrian air defenses. The Russians say 71 were shot down while the Pentagon says none of its cruise missiles were hit.
At least three other sources confirm the Russian version of events. The Pentagon is lying. The attack was a U.S. attempt to disable the Syrian air force by destroying its airports. It failed and the Pentagon is hiding that failure. Will the U.S. media report this discrepancy?
To which I would merely add that if the missile strike was as big a debacle as Russian and Syrian reports claim it was, then the Pentagon will certainly know of it, and the failure of the strike will be the cause of huge dismay to the senior officers of the US military.
In other words Syria has just experienced a military operation which has not affected the course of the war one jot.
The Western powers’ missile strike was either a total failure or an exercise in utter pointlessness.