- Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason/US Navy
- Israeli officials cited in a Ynetnews report characterized the missile strike on Friday by the US, the UK, and France on suspected chemical weapons facilities in Syria as a failure.
- Multiple Israeli government and military sources suggested the strike was not effective in hurting Syria’s ability to conduct chemical attacks.
- These officials also criticized President Donald Trump’s talking about the strike beforehand.
- The latest strike most likely didn’t change anything on the battlefield in Syria, and it’s hard to know how much of the chemical weapons stockpile it hit.
The strike by the US, the UK, and France in Syria on Friday involved 105 missiles fired from air and sea to rain down thousands of pounds of explosives on three targets suspected of being chemical weapons facilities – but Israeli officials cited in a recent news report characterized it as a failure.
“If President Trump had ordered the strike only to show that the US responded to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s use of chemical weapons, then that goal has been achieved,” Israel’s Ynetnews quoted a senior defense official as saying. “But if there was another objective – such as paralyzing the ability to launch chemical weapons or deterring Assad from using it again – it’s doubtful any of these objectives have been met.”
An intelligence official who talked to Ynetnews wasn’t as forgiving.
“The statement of ‘Mission Accomplished’ and (the assertion) that Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons has been fatally hit has no basis,” the official said, most likely referring to a recent tweet from President Donald Trump.
Unlike the US’s strike in April 2017, the latest one did not target Syrian jets or airfields – though the earlier attack apparently had little impact, as Syrian jets took off from the damaged airfield within 24 hours and reports of chemical warfare persisted.
Israel is apparently not impressed with Trump’s tough talk
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The Israeli officials seemed to take issue with Trump’s talking about plans to strike before doing so.
Israel is suspected of carrying out a silent but lethal air war against Iranian-aligned militias in Syria, though Israel seldom comments on whether it took part in specific strikes, and if it does, it’s always after the fact.
“If you want to shoot – shoot, don’t talk,” Ynetnews quoted an Israeli diplomatic source as saying. “In the American case, this is mostly talk. They themselves show actions are not going to follow.”
After Trump tweeted a warning last week to “get ready” for incoming missiles, it appears Russia and Syria moved assets to more protected locations in an attempt to limit the available targets for a strike.
Nobody knows how many chemical weapons Assad has left
The US said the strikes hit the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons infrastructure but acknowledged that some “residual” capabilities remained. The strike did not deal any damage to Syria’s air force, which the US suspects of deploying the weapons.
While Ynetnews’ sources estimated that the strikes didn’t take out the bulk of Syria’s chemical weapons, it’s hard to know the extent of its current stockpile or exactly where all the stores could be.
International inspectors certified in 2013 that Syria had destroyed its chemical weapons facilities as a result of a deal brokered by Russia. But reports of chemical attacks have surfaced regularly since then, and Islamist rebels fighting in the town of Douma – the site of the suspected chemical attack earlier this month that sparked the US and allies’ strike on Friday – say Assad is using the terrifying weapons to win on the battlefield.
“They bombed and bombed, and we weren’t defeated by conventional weapons, so they found the only way was to use chemical [weapons],” an official in the rebel group Jaysh Al Islam told Reuters.
Despite the US and allies’ latest missile strike, the Syrian government has strengthened and fortified its position by clearing out more rebel strongholds.
The UK has acknowledged that the intention of the strikes was not to turn the overall tide in the war and was essentially meant as a punitive action to compel Assad not to use chemical weapons.