On Saturday, Defense spokeswoman Dana White and Director of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. held a press conference at the Pentagon that laid out the details of the Syrian missile strike by the U.S., U.K. and France on Friday night. The three nations who participated in the strike are three of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
The presser took place after the President tweeted “Mission Accomplished!” earlier Saturday morning.
While Syria tried to pre-empt the press conference by publicly claiming that Syrian air defenses shot down 71 of 103 missiles, McKenzie said: “No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” and that the U.S. “successfully hit every target.”
McKenzie also said: “None of our aircraft or missiles in this operation were successfully engaged,” and that the operation took out the heart of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program and set back the program by years.
McKenzie noted that the operation was “precise, overwhelming and effective.”
McKenzie said that Syria did launch 40 unguided surface-to-air missiles (SAM) after the U.S.-led operation was over, and alluded to the possibility that Assad’s 40 SAMs could have hit his own people because the Syrian missiles “had to come down somewhere.”
It appears that Russia and Syria are trying to publish propaganda to try to minimize the public perception of the strike.
White called out Russia and said that its disinformation campaign has increased and that there had been a 2,000-percent increase in online Russian trolls in the last 24 hours.
Russian President Vladimir Putin put out a statement Saturday claiming the strike was an “act of aggression,” after the Russian Ambassador to U.S. warned of “consequences” for the strike.
The coalition fired 103 missiles over 70 minutes at 4 a.m. local Syrian time, which was Friday night on the East Coast of the United States.
This was a larger operation than the 59 missiles launched last April, in an attack on Syria last year.
Two B-1 bombers fired 19 of the missiles.
White called on Russia to demand Assad dismantle his chemical weapons program.
White started the press conference by saying the use of chemical weapons is an inexcusable violation of international law and the U.S. will not tolerate it.
The three targets were the Barzah Research and Development Center, Him Shinsar Chemical Weapons Facility and the Him Shinsar Chemical Weapons Bunker Facility, and McKenzie showed before and after photos of each target.
White said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people demanded an immediate response, and the precision strikes against the Assad regime targeted sites associated with the chemical weapons program. The purpose was to prevent the future use of chemical weapons in the future.
White said the strike was a justified, legitimate and proportionate response to Assad’s use of Syria’s chemical weapons and stated several times that “out goal in Syria continues to be to defeat ISIS,” but that the U.S. cannot ignore the threat that Assad’s actions present.
She also stated that Assad’s actions in April 2017 by gassing his own people and on April 7, 2018, gassing his own people again, show Assad has abandoned Sryia’s commitment to the international agreements that Assad committed to.
Officials noted that they are still collecting information and more details will be provided as assessments are completed.