(CNSNews.com) – President Trump declared Wednesday that despite their efforts, the Assad regime had not been “in the least successful” in shooting down missiles launched by the U.S., France and Britain on Friday.
“Once again, the unmatched skill of the United States military and our great partners and allies was demonstrated to the entire world,” Trump said during a news conference in Palm Beach, Fla. “Missiles were shot. They tried to knock them down. They weren’t in the least successful.”
“They hit none,” the president added, making a zero sign with his hand for emphasis.
Trump thanked the U.S., French and British service members involved in the strike, which targeted three installations linked to President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program.
“The purpose of our strike was to establish a strong deterrent against banned chemical weapons,” he said. “I think our allies were world class, wonderful. We thank them for their support.”
The Assad regime and its Russian allies continue to insist that Russian-supplied and Russian-trained Syrian air defense personnel had intercepted not just some of the 105 missiles launched on Friday – but 70 percent of them.
The Russian state news agency TASS continues to report, as fact, that “Syrian air defenses shot down 71 out of 103 fired missiles.”
In support of that narrative, a defense ministry spokesman in Moscow earlier this week named the air defense systems employed, and gave figures of numbers of incoming missiles he said were shot down by each. (Russia also claims that the U.S. and its allies targeted not just the three declared facilities, but six Syrian airbases as well.)
Major-General Igor Konashenkov claimed Syrian forces had fired a total of 112 “surface-to-air guided missiles” to repel the incoming projectiles, and that 71 had been successful. His breakdown follows:
Of 25 Pansir-SI short-to-medium-range missiles fired, 23 hit their targets;
Of 29 Buk medium-range missiles fired, 24 hit their targets;
Of 11 Osa short-range missiles fired, five hit their targets;
Of 13 S-125 short-range missiles fired, five hit their targets;
Of five Strela-10 short-range missiles fired, three hit their targets;
Of 21 Kvadrat medium-range missiles fired, 11 hit their targets;
Of eight S-200 long-range missiles fired, none hit their targets. (Konashenkov said that was because S-200s are designed to take out enemy aircraft, not missiles.)
Earlier at the Pentagon, U.S. Joint Staff Director Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said U.S. forces assessed that the Assad regime deployed “over 40” surface-to-air missiles during the operation, but that “most of these launches occurred after the last impact of our strike was over.”
“None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses.” The British and French defense ministries gave similar reports.
McKenzie also said the Syrian missiles had been unguided. The regime’s response had therefore amounting to lobbying them into the sky – a tactic both ineffective and dangerous to the Syrian people, he said, because “when you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it’s going to come down somewhere.”
In Friday’s coordinated operation various types of land-attack and air-to-surface 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.
The Russian version of events seems aimed not just at challenging the success of the U.S., French and British strikes, but also at highlighting the purported effectiveness of the air defense systems it has provided Assad.
“This [alleged missile shootdowns] testifies to the high efficiency of the Syrian armament and professional skills of the Syrian servicemen trained by the Russian specialists,” the head of Russian General Staff’s main operations department, Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi, told reporters in Moscow.