Written by Brian Kalman exclusively for SouthFront; Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years. He currently resides and works in the Caribbean.
There are a number of possible explanations for the U.S. cruise missile strike on the Syrian Base of Ash Sha’irat in Homs province. The neo-con establishment may have already convinced President Trump that it is in his best interest to play ball and carry on their agenda, just like Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton before him. Trump may already be proving that being a successful businessman does not equate to being a good political and military strategist, and that this is an early sign of his incompetence; however, there is another explanation. What if the cruise missile attack on the airfield, which appears to have been light and did not result in major damage to the facility or the assets of the Syrian Air Force, was actually meant to send an overt message to the Chinese president who was actually meeting with President Trump at the time of the attack? A message regarding the administrations growing impatience with the situation in Pyongyang perhaps?
Although I am inclined to agree with the Saker, that President Trump has already been brought in line with the will and desires of the neo-con establishment which has been running rough-shod over the American people and sowing nothing but chaos, death and discord across the planet, I have forced myself to consider alternative scenarios. Yes, Trump has already shown many signs that he is abandoning his original platform of “draining the swamp” in Washington, pursuing a more nationalist domestic and foreign policy, and working with other nations in the fight against terrorism. He swiftly threw Michael Flynn under the bus, has removed Stephen Bannon from the National Security Council, and has placed obvious establishment neo-cons in key positions. His approval rating has fallen. Perhaps the millions of Americans that voted for him are realizing that it is business as usual in Washington again? Well, the art of the deal rarely has anything to do with integrity.
The very nature and timing of the strike has to be analyzed, in order to understand the U.S. administration’s probable motivations. The strike is clearly an unlawful act of aggression. It violates both U.S. domestic laws and international law. This should not surprise anyone. The U.S. is a lawless nation, a regime ruled by a military industrial complex that is responsible for almost 70% of the U.S. economy. A nation that tramples on the rights of its own citizens, and applies law unequally amongst the politically well-placed and the average person, cannot be expected to follow international laws. Considering the United States’ track record over the past three administrations, this should come as a surprise to no one.
We are told that two U.S. Navy guided missile destroyers fired a combined total of 59 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles (LACM) against the Syrian government airbase at Ash Sha’irat, which the U.S. determined was the airfield from which the aircraft that perpetrated a heinous strike against civilians with chemical weapons were based. Although no one in the U.S administration or Congress who holds the view that Assad ordered the chemical weapons attack has offered any proof, or even can explain any sort of sane rationale behind such a decision, we are all expected to believe their assertions and blindly stumble into another illegal act of war against a national government that has done nothing to harm the United States. The cruise missile launches required some level of preplanning, with the necessary targeting information being established for each of the missiles for both vessels. The MSM notified the U.S. public in usual dramatic fashion, that the airfield was completely destroyed.
Photographic and video evidence of the immediate aftermath of the strike tell a different story. It appears, and the Russian Ministry of Defense has confirmed, that only 23 of the missiles launched actually impacted on the grounds of the air base. If this is true, what happened to the other 36 missiles? Did the strike target other targets that we are not being made aware of? Did the missiles fail at some point after launch, or did Russian electronic warfare assets in the region spoof them and redirect them off target? At least one Russian Kratsukha (Nightshade) mobile electronic warfare (EW) system is said to have been deployed to protect Russian facilities in the province of Latakia, close to the Mediterranean coast. Additional KRET Richag-AV EW systems, which can be mounted on vehicles and aircraft, may also be utilized by Russian military forces in Syria. Photos purporting to show parts of a U.S. Tomahawk that crashed in the Latakia countryside have appeared on-line.
The most important infrastructure of the air base, the runway, was left un-cratered, and although a number of Mig-23s in different states of repair were destroyed, some operational aircraft were left untouched.
There were very few casualties for a strike of such magnitude, if we are to believe that 59 missiles successfully targeted the base. In light of the evidence, the Syrian military should be able to have the air base back in operation in a minimal amount of time. U.S. Department of Defense officials have stated as recently as early Friday, that a total of 20 aircraft were destroyed, as well as a number of air defense SAM installations. Commercial satellite imagery seems to show damage to hangars and munitions storage buildings.
Coincidentally, there was no release of chemical toxins from any of the munition facility explosions, as firefighters and military personnel responding to the fires were not adversely affected. Clearly, no chemical weapons like the ones supposedly used to bomb civilians in Khan Sheikhoun were present. The U.S. officials also reiterated that two vessels, the USS Ross and USS Porter, fired a combined total of 59 missiles and that all missiles “hit the target”.
Although video of the launch of the tomahawks from the two vessels has been shown repeatedly by western media, we have yet to see any footage of their actual impact on their targets. Until that time, there is a significant discrepancy between U.S. claims, and the physical evidence of damage at Ash Sha’irat.
We have also heard conflicting statements on whether the Russian military was given advance notice of the strike. An unnamed Pentagon official was quoted as saying that the Russians were notified, while White House officials have stated that no advance warning was given to Russia. Who is telling the truth? As Russian personnel and Russian helicopters have frequently been present at the base in the past, it is reasonable to believe that either the U.S. strike was planned at a time when Russian presence at the base was most improbable, or the Russians were notified of the strike shortly before it was launched.
An even more interesting and compelling issue surrounding the timing of the attack, is the fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping had arrived for an official visit the very same day. Are we to believe that the timing of the two is merely coincidence? As the rhetoric coming out of the White House has increasingly hinted at time running out for a political solution to the nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions of Kim Jong-un, there is the very real possibility that the targeted strike on Syria was directed more at China and North Korea than at the Assad government in Damascus. Before the meeting Trump stated,
“We have been treated unfairly and have made terrible trade deals with China for many, many years. That’s one of the things we are going to be talking about. The other thing of course is going to be North Korea.”
Both President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have made resent comments that “all options are on the table” and that “the policy of strategic patience had ended” regarding North Korea’s recent violations of UN prohibitions on nuclear and ballistic missile tests. While the U.S. and South Korean Special Forces are practicing infiltrating North Korea to eliminate leadership targets, as well as conducting simulated joint naval cruise missile strikes and targeted airstrikes, as part of the Foul Eagle 2017 military drills, the Syrian strike adds another element to this macabre backdrop to the Trump-Xi negotiations. A targeted strike using overwhelming force on a single target sends a clear message to Xi and Kim Jong-un that the U.S. is very capable of either a decapitating strike on the leadership of North Korea, or targeted strikes on nuclear and ballistic missile sites. Did “the great negotiator” just try gaining some leverage over his counterpart in their very first official meeting? Was the strike all done for show, or are there broader implications that only the Trump administration is aware of?
While it is obvious that the neo-con forces plaguing the U.S. system of government are embedded like a tick, and that the few personalities that were part of the new administration that aimed to change the course of the nation have either resigned or been demoted, many American voters are holding on to the hope that Trump is wiser and more shrewd than the establishment gives him credit for. I happen to agree with the Saker here, and believe that the establishment has successfully positioned itself within the Trump administration, so as to control all the key functions of the executive branch. Trump has either been complicit in removing his few real allies, or has been outmaneuvered in a few short months. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the war-hawks of Washington are back in the driver’s seat. The short window of opportunity for a fresh start in U.S.-Russia and U.S.-China relations, through a new diplomatic effort aimed at de-escalation and mutual economic benefit, is rapidly closing.