What are the events that led to the first direct military attack against the Syrian govenrment by the USA? We are told that “on the morning of the 4th of April, in the Khan Shaykhun region, the Syrian airforce bombarded civilians with chemical weapons.”
This was the accusation put forward by the jihadists who control the region. They presented a video, a product of malicious editing, with somebody presented as a volunteer doctor, who was later identified as a criminal known to the British justice for his involvement in terrorism and abductions.
In the video that appeared on the Internet (where else?), there appear tens of victims of the supposed attack with chemical weapons. The main protagonists were little children, even babies, supposedly the main victims of this attack by the Assad regime. There has been no other confirmation of this incident or of these accusations whatsoever.
Nevertheless, the western media of mass misinformation went wild against Assad to a degree that they really exceeded all extremes. A characteristic example is the front page of the next day (5th of April) of the French Libération, where they presented a collage with dead underage children as victims of Assad. When the obvious question was put to the director of this leftist and supposedly progressive newspaper as to how she knew that it was really Assad who murdered these children, and by using chemicals, she replied that she considered this fact to be more or less a given and that, consequently, the objective of the front page was to enrage people, and to turn them against the regime that stubbornly denies having committed such an atrocious crime.
Of course if newspapers like Libération worked in a civilised state that respected its citizens, justice would immediately have intervened, at least for deliberate instigation of hate and provocation of war. But even today, France is under a modern Dark Age dictatorship, where Big Brother slogans dominate: Truth is lies. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength!
The decision for the attack
The next day, the 6th of April, Reuters broadcasted that the results of an autopsy confirmed that chemical weapons were actually used at the attack. Where did the autopsy take place? In Turkey. What’s more, the results of the autopsy showed that chemical weapons were used in the attack – that killed at least seventy people in the region of Idlib in Syria – according to announcements of the Turkish Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdağ. Thirty two victims of the Tuesday attack were supposed to have been transported to Turkey, where the autopsy also took place.
But even if there really was an autopsy proving that the dead were victims of a chemical attack, how is it inferred (or deduced) that the Syrian Airforce is responsible for this attack? Certainly not due to the autopsy of the victims. In order to find those accountable for the attack with chemicals, an autopsy of the spot where the attack took place is required, and this has not happened so far. But this is just small letters and useless details for the stupid journalists and their bosses. These announcements (through the video) were sufficient for the president of the USA, Donald Trump, to directly accuse the government of Syria and Bashar al-Assad personally, of crossing the ‘red line’ with the poison gas attack against non-combatants, and he announced that his handling of the case of Syria and Assad had changed. Since then, the road has been wide open for the first military strike against the official government of Syria.
Using 59 tomahawks…
The next day, 7th of April, at 3:40 early in the morning (local time), the attack against Syria began, with fifty nine Tomahawk missiles, launched from the guided missile cruiser USS Ross (DDG 71) and USS Porter (DDG 78), class Arleigh Burke, that were located in the Mediterranean. The target was the Shayrat airbase of the Syrian air force, which was according to the USA announcements, the one that launched the attack with the chemical weapons. Once more there no evidence was presented.
At this airbase, which was not in the first line of the military operations of the Syrian airforce and the Russians, targets were hit, including mainly the two runways as well as the hangars housing airplanes of the Syrian air force that had been grounded for a long period. According to the Syrian government, there were fourteen dead, half of them civilians.
However, the damage to the airport was not significant, since twelve hours later it was again ready to operate. Videos taken the day after show that the runways were operational. Even the images that the Pentagon released of the attack on Sheyrat airport do not show extensive damage, which would be expected after an attack with fifty nine Tomahawks.
The Pentagon insists that all the Tomahawk missiles found their target. However, this is refuted not only by the images that the Pentagon itself released, but also by the announcements of the Russian Ministry of Defence that only twenty three Tomahawks found their target. What happened to the rest? They certainly did not hit other targets: neither the Pentagon claims such a thing, and nor have the Syrian authorities shown any craters created by Tomahawks, apart from those at the airport.
The GS Guterres expresses his concern…
The same day on which the USA launched the attack against Syria, the UN Security Council delayed a vote for a resolution regarding the incident with chemicals in Syria. Three competing plans for a resolution were submitted to the Security Council. The joint resolution put forward by the United Kingdom, the USA and France asked the Syrian authorities to provide the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with all the information regarding the flights of their military air force that took place on the day of the incident, and to allow free access to their military establishments around the specific region where the attack took place.
It is worth noticing that the plan of the three does not mention any specific military establishment, despite the fact that the USA announced that they have some precise information that the attack with chemicals was launched from the Shayrat airport, the one that they hit with their Tomahawks. And of course it does not ask for the obvious: to extend the investigation in order to confirm the incident in the area that was hit with the chemicals. Why is that?
The plan that Russia proposed asks exactly for this extension. It asked for a complete investigation into the incident to be conducted by UN and OPCW specialists, first and foremost in the area that is claimed to have been hit by chemicals, and it asks for all the participants in the conflict to cooperate. The third plan was proposed by the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council in an attempt to reach a compromise between the differences of the two other plans.
Unprecedented unilateral action by the USA
In this way, Trump made a unilateral decision to hit Syria without any trace of evidence that the Assad government was responsible for the supposed attack with chemical weapons in the Idlib region. Even more, he took this decision without any kind of international justification from the UN Security Council, not even a resolution with misleading terms, as in the case of Gaddafi’s Libya.
Trump invoked as an excuse for the missile attack on Syria the “vital national security and foreign policy interests of the USA,” as he characteristically mentioned in the letter he sent to inform the Congress on the 8th of April. And in order to present himself as legitimate he invoked the authority to start military action based on a common resolution of the Congress and the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148 of 1973), even though this resolution only authorises the president of USA to start military action after an official declaration of war, or in the case of a direct military threat against the integrity of the USA.
It is the first time since George Bush – and his ‘coalition of the willing’ – who declared the Third World War, that a president of the USA goes ahead with a military action against a sovereign state in such a shameless manner and lacking any shred of even a pretext of legality, even invoking the ‘vital interests’ of his country, when there is not even a virtual threat against the USA. This has not been officially heard on the international scene since the Hitler era, who entered into the Second World War in order to defend the ‘vital interests’ of his country.
Mrs. Hina Shamsi, director of the powerful and quite regime-oriented American Civil Liberties Union, wrote regarding the legality of the attack on Syria:
Nobody questions that the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad against Syrian citizens is illegal, immoral and unacceptable. But Assad’s lawfulness is not an excuse for an unlawful reply. By ignoring not only the constitutional law disapproving of using violence without the congress’s approval but also the international law which does not allow the unilateral use of violence except in case of self defence, president Trump has started a unilateral attack against a state that did not attack us, and without any congressional permission. This violates some of the most significant legal restrictions on the use of violence. (Speak Freely, American Civil Liberties Union, April 9, 2017).
The first target of the attack
Well, that’s the first real target of the missile attack in Syria; to enable the president of the USA to get rid of every strict legal restriction deriving from both the Constitution and international law, in terms of provoking and conducting war according to how he himself estimates the vital interests of his country. And this is unprecedented, even for an American president.
Before Trump, nobody else had dared to do so. They always looked for a legal pretext of a supposed ‘national emergency’ for the USA, or at least some kind of international backing from the Security Council. No need for alibis and feelings of shame any more.
Whoever is arbitrarily considered by the president as a threat to the ‘vital interests’ of the USA may be hit by a military attack. Without even needing to apply the typical procedures that are required by the USA constitution, nor even more the procedures required by international law. This is about the imperial right to declare and conduct war, solely on the emperor’s judgement. And this makes the world more dangerous than ever.
In other eras there would be many people rising and demanding the resignation of the president, because he had committed what no post-war president dared to commit. There would be organisations of civil and political rights, judges, senators and members of parliament rising up. But now they are all dead silent. But there are none of the famous system of checks and balances of the so called American democracy, supposed to exist in order to limit this kind of presidential behaviour.
No measures have been taken against a president whom, not long ago, almost everybody had risen against and of whom they were demanding that he step down for forbidding the entrance to the USA of citizens from certain states. The most arbitrary bombardment of a state was needed in order for everybody to calm down, make peace with Trump and recognise his imperial right to make war. And in this way they prepare the ground in order to prove that Trump is the most dangerous president of the USA for international peace.
The second target of the attack
The second real target was Syria itself. In Syria the Assad armed forces, with the contribution of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah but also the Kurds, have in essence predominated against the mercenaries of the ‘armed opposition’ and the jihadists. And this predominating was the first big defeat of the policy of involvement against sovereign states and breaking them up, that Washington and Brussels have followed since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early Nineties.
This fact put the legitimate Assad government and the coalition of the political forces that support it, back as the leading factor of the future developments in post war Syria. Assad’s predominance was such, that the return of refugees from neighbouring countries was already on its way.
It is characteristic that the financial market sharks, masking themselves as capital donors, had already started discussions with the Assad government for the fast rebuilding of Syria. Only two days before Trump’s attack on Syria, it became known that donors from all around the world had promised 5.5 billion euros in financial aid for Syria, with Germany declaring that Europe should be ashamed that it does not do more, given the efforts by the Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey (EUObserver, April 5, 2017).
The vultures smelled the burned flesh, an unprecedented destruction amounting to close on 70% of Syrian infrastructure, and in addition 13.5 million refugees, according to the UN, who have to return to their homeland. This is the time of incredible profits for the building industry.
But this cannot happen with Assad at the steering wheel, and with a sovereign, intact and undivided Syria. This is what neither the USA nor Europe are able to accept. Syria must be broken up by whatever means, and Assad can at most remain ruler only of Damascus and its surroundings. But the breaking up operation could any more materialise with the mercenary jihadists from the USA, Europe and Turkey. The USA military forces had to take action. On Syrian soil.
The military intervention of the USA in Syria
The pretext is there. It is the war against Al-Qaeda and the Caliphate. Using the war for the retaking of Mosul as a pretext, about two months ago the Pentagon released military vehicle units outside Raqqa, supposedly for the occupation of the Caliphate capital inside Syria.
Raqqa is of strategic importance for the break-up of Syria. It is the epicenter of the biggest surface and subterranean water deposits of Syria. At the same time it is close to the M4 highway, which makes easy access from Turkey and Iraq, and the the road that passes from Raqqa itself in essence divides Syria in two.
Therefore, both for the Syrian military forces and the Americans – for entirely different reasons – Raqqa is of top strategic importance. But the Americans are unable to operate in the region without the help of the Kurds. For this reason Washington has already had an agreement with Kurdish chiefs for the creation of a Kurdish state with parts of Syria and Iraq.
According to documents revealed by the Inside Syria Media Center on the 24th of March the authorities of the USA and Kurds of Syria reached an agreement last week regarding the borders of the Kurdish autonomous region on Syrian soil, that the Americans guarantee to the Kurds, provided that the Kurds help them to occupy Raqqa and Al-Tabqah (thirty four miles west of Raqqa). In addition, Washington has already defined the borders of the new state of Great Kurdistan on Syrian and Iraqi soil, which must be created after the defeat of the Caliphate and the final collapse of the Syrian Arab Republic.
But contrary to the American plans, the forces of Assad, with the help of Russia, Hezbollah and Iran, are now much closer to capturing Raqqa as well as Al-Tampa. In that case, even the Kurdish chiefs will be forced to negotiate with Assad. And the USA is already in a very difficult position.
How could this possibility be overturned? In two ways: the first possibility would be to reinforce the USA military presence on Syrian soil; however, the transfer of powerful ground forces without air cover and protection is not possible. The second possibility would be to push the Kurds against Assad. However, this would leave the Kurds exposed to Erdogan, who does not want in any way to be left out of the division of Syrian and Iraqi territory. And the Kurds know this better than anybody. What is left? The immediate reinforcement of the American army on Syrian soil. The Americans already have a motorised brigade ready to operate in the Raqqa-Tampa region, using Iraq as a base. But this is not enough. They urgently need additional forces as well as air cover.
The Russian A2/AD system
But how is it possible to send more military forces, ignoring the Russians, the Iranians and most importantly the Anti-Access/Area Denial system A2/AD that the Russians have installed in Syria? The system A2/AD is a weapon used in order to prevent an opponent from capturing or passing through a ground, sea or air region.
This specific method that is used is not necessary to be absolutely effective on preventing the passage of enemy forces. It is sufficient to delay drastically, retard or put in danger the enemy. The fear of great losses is keeping the enemy away from the ground, sea and air that is protected by A2/AD.
The Russians have the most advanced A2/AD systems in the world. They are so advanced, that the USA and NATO do not have a satisfactory countermeasure, at least for the present.
Russia developed these systems in response to the supreme ability of NATO to operate air strikes on a massive scale. Therefore, Russia has created large Anti-Access/Area Denial zones or ‘bubbles’ around the countries of the Baltic, the Black sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Arctic. These ‘bubbles’ allow Moscow to deny the use of airspace, ground and sea in these regions and to limit drastically the transit of airplanes, ships and ground forces in case of a crisis.
At the official announcement after the Warsaw Summit at 8-9 July 2016, NATO expressed its concern at these developments, declaring that it will not accept limitations on the free transit of alliance forces from Anti-Access/Area Denial zones. And the reason is simple. This way NATO loses its advantage of massive surprise air strikes from big distance as a preparation for ground operations.
Tomahawks have tried the system A2/AD
This was therefore the basic USA military target: to test the capabilities of the A2/AD system that has been installed in Syria; and to check what will be the percentage of losses and to evaluate operationally how they can penetrate the system’s net, without prohibitive losses.
This way Trump did what Obama did not dare to do in 2013, using as a pretext a similar attack with chemical weapons at the eastern Ghouta region in August of the same year. Several countries, including France, the UK and USA examined the possibility of intervening militarily against the Syrian government forces. On the 6th September 2013, the US Senate adopted a resolution for the use of military force against the Syrian army as a response to the Ghouta attack. On the 10th of September 2013, the military intervention was prevented when the Assad government accepted the USA-Russia side agreement to give up all its stock of chemical weapons for destruction, and declared its willingness to enter the Chemical Weapons Convention.
This is the convention that the Syrian army supposedly violated with the attack on the 4th of April. Despite the various controlled voices that wanted then to blame the Assad government in order to legitimise a direct strike, finally the investigation proved that the jihadists were responsible for the attack with chemical weapons in Ghouta. On January 2014 a team of specialists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published its results. The essay, by Richard Loyd, an ex-UN armaments inspector, and Theodor Postol, an MIT professor, was entitled ‘Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence’). It examined the missile’s design and calculated all possible orbits based on its useful load.
The authors concluded that it would be impossible to launch the gas sarin from territory under the control of the forces of the Assad government.
You cannot fail to notice the similarity of the two incidents regarding their management and propaganda. And despite the fact that today we know exactly who and why of the ‘armed opposition’ mercenaries set up the provocation using chemical weapons in order to create a pretext for military intervention by the USA and NATO against Syria, the stupid journalists and the mass media continue to attribute to Assad this attack with chemical weapons.
What stopped the military intervention at the time, especially since Obama had ensured the Congress’s agreement. The main reason was the A2/AD that Syria already had, with Russia’s help. At that time Obama wanted to send the British and French air forces first, in order to test the effectiveness of the ‘bubble’. But the two US allies did not oblige.
The political cost of a failed military operation forced Obama to rethink and forget for the moment a military attack against Syria; and what Obama did not dare to do, Trump arbitrarily dared to do.
Backed by Crete
What was the result? Only twenty three of the fifty nine Tomahawks found their target. The rest fell in the sea due to the A2/AD system. This is 39% accuracy, or better expressed 61% losses. For an accurate weapon such as the Tomahawk these percentages are utterly unacceptable and may well depress the Pentagon and NATO headquarters.
Suppose that the USA were trying to hit its target with an airplane raid. Out of one hundred aircraft, at least sixty one would not return to base; and in fact it would be even worse, as the A2/AD system is much more effective against aircraft than against Cruise and Tomahawk missiles. Imagine the cost of such an operation for the USA and its allies.
The Tomahawk missiles were launched two thousand kilometres away from their target in Syria. The USA cruisers involved were in the sea region of Crete, so in the case of a Russian counterattack they could be protected by the Souda American Military Base in Crete.
In Crete the most powerful radar exists. It is currently being upgraded by the Israeli army, and is out of Russian range. Of course, the reinforcement of the Russian fleet near Cyprus with frigates and cruisers from the Black Sea fleet gives Russia the ability to extend the denial zone up to Crete in order to hit targets even at its proximity. All this in case Trump carries out his threats to continue with his attacks.
From a military point of view, the operation was a complete failure for the USA, not only because they were unable to penetrate the ‘bubble’ of A2/AD with reasonable losses, but because they were also unable to provide efficient air cover for a possible ground operation of their own in Syria. Neither it is easy, due again to the ‘bubble,’ to remove sufficient ground forces of tanks, artillery and helicopters from Iraq to Syria inland. They can only do that with the agreement of the Russians and Assad.
All this of course does not mean that Trump will just sit waiting. His aggressiveness will increase. The hits next time will have greater dispersion and will be from air, sea and ground. Israel is already preparing to contribute. With them also the Greek air force, which is an easy target for the Russians, is trying to find a way of penetrating the A2/AD system.
This is why Greece has regular joint air force exercises with Israel and the USA. Even above Athens’ air region, for the first time ever. And we have the suitable political system for this to take place. Crete has already been surrendered in order to become an unsinkable aircraft carrier for Israel and USA, as the Greek Defence Minister, Mr. Kammenos, has already announced.
And all of us are waiting for the inevitable fate, even having stupid journalists in our country as well as various analysts (not named here but known to all) preparing the next step of the military attack on Syria from Greek ground, air and sea territory, trying at the same time to reassure the idle and naïve with stupidities regarding the ‘failure’ of the Russian and Syrian air defence.
They are obviously aiming to persuade fools of their kind, who believe that the Americans will protect us and the Russians will leave us alone, to send the hawks from Greek territory to infiltrate their own A2/AD security zones. You see, stupidity is contagious.
Dimitris Kazakis is General Secretary of EPAM.