As tensions over the April 14 US-led strike on Syria are developing, it would be interesting to compare results of the 2017 and 2018 US military actions against Syria:
- The 2017 US missile strikes on Shayrat military airfield operated by the Syrian Arab Air Force;
- The 2018 US-led missile strikes on various targets belonging to the Syrian government.
So, what results has the world’s superpower achieved with its military actions?
On April 7, 2017 the US Navy carried out a missile strike on Shayrat military airfield of the Syrian Arab Air Force. The move was publicly justified by accusations that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been behind the alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun, Idlib province, on April 4, 2017.
Washington alleged that Shayrat military airfield had been the base for the aircraft that allegedly carried out a chemical weapons attack on Khan Shaykhun.
The USS Porter guided missile destroyer launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on the Syrian military airfield.
According to a statement by the United States Central Command, the missiles “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars”.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis even claimed that the strike had resulted “in the damage or destruction of fuel and ammunition sites, air defense capabilities, and 20 percent of Syria’s operational aircraft. The Syrian government has lost the ability to refuel or rearm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest.“
The only problem with this statement is that Syrian warplanes resumed their operations from Shayrat miltiary airfield on April 7, few hours after the US missile strike:
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) 7 April 2017
A better video from April 8 (day later):
The US Navy launched 59 missiles [unit cost 1,870,000 USD] at the Syrian military airfield but it remained operational. The runways and the taxiways were not impacted.
The Russian Defense Ministry described the “combat effectiveness” of the attack as “extremely low” adding that only 23 missiles hit the target.
Later ImageSat International released satellite imagery allegedly showing 44 hits by the Tomahawk cruise missiles.
According to photos from the military airfield, 10 Syrian aircraft were destroyed on the airbase:
- Su-22 x 3
- Su-22M3 x 4
- MiG-23ML x 3
According to some sources, the number of targeted aircraft could be up to 15. However, photos of these aircraft have never appeared. Sources in the airfield also revealed that most of the destroyed aircraft had been already damaged or out of service.
- Launched: 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles;
- Missiles’ cost: 110,330,000 USD;
- Results: Shayrat military airfield remained operational; 10 Syrian aircraft (some sources say 15, but there are no photos) were destroyed. Most of the destroyed aircraft had been already damaged or out of service.
- The US leadership described the operation as a military success.
On April 14, 2018 the US, the UK and France launched carried out a joint massive missile strike on Syria. The move was publicly justified by accusations that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been behind the alleged chemical attack in the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital, on April 7, 2018.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis described the 2018 strike (source):
“Earlier today, President Trump directed the U.S. military to conduct operations in consonance with our allies to destroy the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons research development and production capability.
Tonight, France, the United Kingdom and the United States took decisive action to strike the Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure.
Clearly the Assad regime did not get the message last year. This time our allies and we have struck harder. Together we have sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable.”
According to the Pentagon, the US, the UK and France launched 105 missiles at the alleged “chemical weapons” facilities of the Assad government:
- 66 Tomahawk cruise missiles [unit cost 1,870,000 USD];
- 20 Storm Shadow/SCALP EG air-launched cruise missiles [unit cost about 1,053,000 USD];
- 19 AGM-158 JASSM air-launched cruise missiles [unit cost about 1,000,000 USD].
The Pentagon alleged the all the missiles had hit their targets:
- 76 missiles hit “Barzah Research and Development Center”
- 22 missiles hit “Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Storage Site”
- 7 missiles hit “Him Shinshar CW Bunker”
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, 71 missiles had been intercepted by the Syrian Air Defense Forces [according to experts, most likely with the Russian and Iranian assistance]. However, let’s follow the US version of the story.
So, the US-led strike caused the following destructions:
— imagesatintl (@imagesatint) 14 April 2018
Barzah Research and Development Center, consisting of three relatively small buildings, was the main target of the strike. The scale of the destruction caused by the “76 missiles” raises an eyebrow:
There is another interesting point.
According to the Pentagon, the center should be some major chemical weapons production and storage facility. A quote from the Pentagon’s briefing (source):
Q: General McKenzie, the three targets that you struck, were those manufacturing or researching chlorine or sarin?
GEN. MCKENZIE: A little of both. And particularly in the Barzeh target, but there’s a little of both.
However, on November 22, 2017 the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) conducted a round of inspections in Barzeh and found no traces of chemical weapons there (source):
According to reprots from local sources, the rest of the objects were not “chemical facilities” also. Nonetheless, nobody believes the Assad propaganda, right?
On the next day after the US-led cruise missile strike, the Syrian Arab Army launched a new military operation against militants, this time in the Rastan pocket.
- Launched: 105 missiles of different variants;
- Missiles’ cost: 163,480,000 USD;
- Results [If the Pentagon’s statement is true]: The 105 missiles were used to destroy 3 relatively small buildings and 6 small buildings. The biggest “chemical weapons facility” targeted by the strike [76 missiles spent] was officially inspected by the OPCW in late 2017, no chemical weapons were found there;
- Results [If the Russian Defense Ministry’s statement is true]: The US-led forces suffered a decisive failure. 71 missiles were intercepted. The rest of the missiles hit non-important targets. The Syrian “chemical weapons infrastructure” is a US-promoted myth.
- The US leadership described the operation as a military success. US President Donald Trump described the strike as “perfectly executed“.
In 2017, the US spent 110,330,000 USD in missiles to halt Syrian Arab Air Force combat sorties for a few hours. About 10 old-fashinoed (according to some sources, non-operational) aircraft were destroyed.
The scale of the 2018 strike was roughly two time greater than those in 2017. This time, the US, the UK and France spent 163,480,000 USD in missiles to destroy few buildings across Syria. Even if we believe in some Syrian “chemical weapons infrastructure”, the main target hit by the strike had not belonged to it.
In both cases, the US leadership described the results of strikes as a total success. However, it looks that it forgot to mention that this success was mostly achieved in the mainstream media.