The Pentagon claimed Saturday the U.S.-led attack on Syria set back regime’s chemical weapons program “for years,” but experts contend those assertions may be exaggerated.
On Friday, forces from France, Britain and the U.S. launched combined strikes on three military targets associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, including a research and development facility outside the capital Damascus.
Yet defense analysts that spoke to Giftofaservant suggested that some of the dangerous material is probably still available, or relatively easy to reproduce.
“The damage assessment is suspiciously quick.” said Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official who is an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
President Donald Trump ordered the military intervention as punishment for Syria unleashing chemical weapons April 7 in the rebel-held town of Douma that killed more than 40 people.
In a Pentagon press briefing Saturday, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said the three facilities targeted in the coordinated operation with allies were “fundamental components of the regime’s chemical weapons warfare infrastructure.”
Officials expressed confidence that much of the country’s illicit arsenal had been degraded by the strike, with McKenzie stating it was “going to set the Syrian chemical weapons program back for years.” Yet defense veterans expressed doubts.
“That claim that Syria was set back for years is pure PR,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a former U.S. defense official and now the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
According to Lewis, the Department of Defense’s “battle damage assessments are never that strong, especially not this fast and from afar. They can hope that they’ve set back the program for a years, but it’s more likely that the setback is more modest.”
And despite the president’s claims of the mission having been accomplished, Lewis suggested that the intervention in Syria had a certain air of futility. “This is starting to become like mowing the lawn. They gas civilians, we strike them, they do it again,” he said.