On Friday night, the United States, France and the UK launched a unified offensive against Syrian targets alleged to be a part of the nation’s chemical weapons infrastructure. Russia, who has been providing direct military support to Bashar al Assad’s Syrian regime, claimed in the days preceding the attack that they would defend Syrian assets and intercept inbound ballistic missiles, and although they ultimately did neither, they have offered their support in the form of Russia’s chief foreign policy export: propaganda.
Although the United States and allies have released satellite images of their targets before and after the offensive clearly showing their destruction, Russia has nonetheless released official statements claiming that Syrian anti-air defenses had successfully “countered” the attack, even going so far as to claim that Syrian defense platforms dating back to the Soviet era had actually intercepted the vast majority of inbound missiles.
The Syrian air defence [sic] systems, which are primarily the USSR-made AD systems, have successfully countered the air and naval strikes,” The Russian Ministry of Defense wrote in a statement on Saturday.
“In total, 71 cruise missiles have been intercepted. The S-125, S-200, Buk, Kvadrat, and Osa Syrian AD systems were involved in repelling the attack.”
Russia claimed a total of 103 missiles were fired from the combined aircraft and naval assets in the region, only slightly fewer than the legitimate figure, which was 105. The American Defense Department also issues a statement regarding the outcome of the offensive over the weekend, and their assessment was rather different than Russia’s. More importantly, America’s claims have been independently verified by commercial satellite imagery companies, as well as photographs taken on the ground.
All weapons hit their targets close to the designated time on target,” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Joint Staff director, told the press on Saturday.
“We are still conducting a more detailed damage assessment, but initial indications are that we accomplished our military objectives without material interference. I would use three words to describe the operation: Precise, overwhelming and effective,” he said.
Regarding whether or not any missiles had been intercepted, McKenzie echoed statements made previously by other senior defense officials.
None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses,” McKenzie said. “We have no indication that Russian air defenses were employed.”
For their part, Russia did confirm that they did not engage their own ballistic missile defense systems. As for the all the Syrian interceptors launched that Russia claims actually intercepted the inbound missiles? According to the Pentagon, they were indeed launched… and likely posed a bigger threat to the Syrian people than they did to American, British, or French assets.
Most of the launches occurred after our strike was over,” the general said. “When you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it has to come down somewhere.”
However, Syria echoed Russia’s claims, at least according to Russia, saying that they were able to successfully repel the attack, despite the photographic evidence to the contrary.
Yesterday we saw American aggression. And we were able to repel it with Soviet missiles from the 70s,” Russian lawmaker Dmitry Sablin quoted Assad as saying after a meeting with Russian lawmakers over the weekend.
Of course, this sort of response was expected from the Defense Department, as Defense Secretary James Mattis pointed out in a press conference the took place only one hour after the missiles began touching down.
Based on recent experience, we fully expect a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have aligned themselves with the Assad regime,” he told the press.
Feature image courtesy of the Associated Press