(Conservative Tribune) – In a bombshell statement made after an allied strike against Syria, Defense Secretary James Mattis called the action a “heavy strike” that was part of a new strategy to inflict “long-term degradation” on the forces of strongman Bashar al-Assad, the Washington Examiner reported.
The early Saturday morning strike, which hit three key facilities that U.S. officials say were critical in Syria’s capacity to research and produce chemical weapons, was the second time that the Trump administration had retaliated against the Assad regime for using chemical weapons against its own people.
This time, though, Mattis says the strike was significantly more crippling for Assad’s forces.
“We used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year,” Mattis said during the late-night Pentagon briefing. “Right now this is a one-time shot.”
While Syrian state TV said that the 13 U.S. Tomahawk missiles were shot down during the strike, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seemed to cast doubt upon this.
“The only reaction that I’m aware of at this time is Syrian surface-to-air missiles,” Dunford said. “I’m not aware of any Russia activity and I’m not aware of the full scope of the Syrian regime response at this time.”
A fuller briefing was expected from the Pentagon on Saturday morning.
Mattis told reporters that it was in our “vital national interest” to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons factories.
“Clearly, the Syrian regime did not get the message last year,” Mattis said.
“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.”
The chlorine gas attack, which occurred last Saturday, was the first such attack by the Assad regime against its own people since the attack last year, which prompted a volley of Tomahawk missiles that struck Shayrat Air Base.
Syria, Russia and Iran condemned the allied attacks, somewhat unsurprisingly. In a statement on Twitter, Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov warned of possible consequences.
“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,” Antonov said on Twitter, according to Al Jazeera.
“Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.”
Antonov also tried moral equivalency, stating that “(t)he US – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons — has no moral right to blame other countries.”
Yes, but we don’t typically use them against our own citizens. And by “typically,” I mean “never.” In fact, we don’t use them against other people, either. The same, apparently, cannot be said for the Assad regime.
However, Dunford said that ability might have been degraded in a major way by the strikes, which took aim at a research and R&D center for chemical weapons, a storage facility for them and a command post facility.
“They will lose years of research and development data,” Dunford said.
Both Dunford and Mattis stressed that the objective was to hobble Syria’s capacity to use chemical weapons against their own people and to avoid Russian targets. To that end, the mission seems to be a success. Whether or not Russia wants to stand on the side of a brutal murderer and do his revenge work for him remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the Pentagon feels, from early evidence, that they accomplished their goals.