(CNSNews.com) – The U.S., British and French defense departments reported no successful intercepts of the scores of missiles that targeted three Syrian chemical weapons-linked installations on Friday, even though the Assad regime and Russia maintain that most were shot down.
The stark disparities in the accounts underline again the nature of a conflict in which falsehoods have become commonplace.
“Based on recent experience,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said at the Pentagon on Friday night, “we fully expect a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have aligned themselves with the Assad regime.”
By the next morning, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White reported that “the Russian disinformation campaign has already begun,” adding that there had been “a 2,000 percent increase in Russian trolls in the last 24 hours.”
According to U.S. Joint Staff Director Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, not only were there no reports of Syrian intercepts of the 105 missiles launched by the three allies, but that the Syrian attempts to shoot them down came mostly “after the last impact of our strike was over.”
Further, he told reporters at the Pentagon that the Syrian response amounted to indiscriminately lobbing missiles into the sky, without guidance. That response was both ineffective, he said, and risky to the Syrian people, given that “when you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it’s going to come down somewhere.”
“None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses, and we have no indication that Russian air-defense systems were employed,” McKenzie stressed.
“We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets. At the end of the strike mission, all our aircraft safely returned to their bases.”
From the British and French, there were also no reports of successful interceptions.
“The mission is a success,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly told a briefing. “All of our missiles have reached their goal.”
“Detailed analysis of the effectiveness of the strike is currently underway, but initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack,” said Britain’s Ministry of Defense, referring to the cruise missiles launched by Royal Air Force jets during the operation.
By contrast, Moscow’s version of events saw Russian-made and Russian-trade Syrian air defenses shoot down 71 of the incoming missiles.
Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff’s main operations department, said that was evidence of the “high efficiency of the Syrian armament and professional skills of the Syrian servicemen trained by the Russian specialists.”
Rudskoi said Russia has restored Syria’s air defense capabilities over the past 18 months and is continuing to enhance them.
Russia’s claims were echoed by the Assad regime, whose representative at the U.N. in New York, Bashar al-Jaafari, said Syrian air defenses had repelled “many” missiles.
A variety of missiles were launched from U.S. Navy cruisers, destroyers and submarines in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and northern Arabian Gulf, U.S. B-1 Lancer bombers, a French frigate in the Mediterranean and French Rafale and Mirage jets, and British Tornadoes and Typhoons.
Friday’s coordinated attack was a response to a chemical weapons attack in Douma which the U.S. and its allies blamed on the Assad regime. The regime and Russia continue to deny that.