Almost exactly one year ago, the United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airfield in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.
But on balance, according to U.S. national security and military analysts, last year’s action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime did little to stop the bloodshed that has raged in that civil war-torn country for nearly a decade.
On Friday night, Trump repeated the claim that last year’s attack “destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian air force,” but that has never been verified.
“The general consensus was that it was not an effective strike,” Kevin Baron, a national security analyst for NBC News, said on Friday. “The United States sent a lot of firepower to one runway, but the Syrian government was able to quickly rebuild and reuse it.”
And, as last week’s suspected nerve agent attack in the city of Douma seems to show, the U.S. action did not deter Assad from again using chemical weapons against civilians.
The strikes had “absolutely no impact whatsoever on the course of the war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people,” Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a military analyst for NBC News, said on Friday night.
“It did make a strong, useful statement to the world. But there have been as many as a dozen subsequent chemical attacks on unarmed civilians, so it clearly had no deterrence aspect.”
The missiles were launched from the USS Ross and the USS Porter in the Mediterranean Sea toward the airfield. Americans believed it had been used by Assad’s forces to carry out an attack on April 4, 2017.
U.S. officials told NBC News at the time that aircraft and infrastructure at the site were hit, including the runway and gas fuel pumps.