Return to Transcripts main page

SMERCONISH

Syrian Missile Strikes Analyzed; The Pentagon Press Conference Shared Details of the Strike; Importance of Having Congressional Approval of a Declaration of War. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired April 14, 2018 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:00]

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this point, Steve (ph), its all clear they have no losses themselves and the Syrian regime have said three people were injured as part of falling debris from an intercepted missile. Now, obviously, take to some degree the Syrian regime's statements here with a pinch of salt.

They've not been enormously truthful in the past, and the Russian regime today say themselves that 71 out of 110 of the missiles launched by the U.K., U.S. and France were intercepted. That will be a staggeringly successful rate by even the best missile defense systems. It's quite clear the Russians have beefed up what the Syrian regime have been able to do here recently but still I'm sure a lot more got through than necessarily that.

This is part of the strategy today, frankly, which is to say we didn't have that bad a night in Damascus. Now clearly the skyline was rocked by explosions in ways they hadn't seen for quite a while. Also around Homs too. Bashar al-Assad keen to be seen on the Syrian presidency twitter account in a video just sort of sauntering into work over a clean marble floor, carrying a briefcase like he had a great night's sleep and was about to address the day's business.

Clearly, that's not been the case, but also too people will be assessing as to whether or not the damage done to the regime is enough to make them rethink their calculus about using chemical weapons. My personal haunch would be yes; one slight note of caution in this region, the rule of unintended consequences. Donald Trump has just said it was a very good mission last night and used the immortal phrase, mission accomplished. We'll cast your mind back to 2003 when George W. Bush unfurled that banner behind him on an aircraft carrier.

The U.S. was in Iraq for 15 years and is still there now. We don't know the end of this story yet but last night was limited in what it did; it lasted fully 17 minutes, targeted just a small number of facilities with aim to send a message. I think that message was probably received.

Whether the regime is smart enough to not use chemical weapons and avoid the last week's worth of kind of international hullabaloo so to speak, again, we'll have to wait and see but Russia and Iran certainly haven't lost enough face at this point that they necessarily have to respond militarily at this point, I should say. Often retaliation in this part of the world comes in the weeks ahead rather than the hours after an event. Michael.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: You anticipated my next question. Was there any discernible military response from the Russians or from the Iranians?

WALSH: No, in a word. We don't know what part of the antiaircraft or anti missile defenses were, so to speak, Russian. We know that the Syrian Army is thread bare to some degree. So much high-tech was sold to them by the Russians or given to them by the Russians. Some may be Iranian. The Russians and the Iranians are quite clear in their phraseology that this has been a successful Syrian air defense operation.

That's probably nonsense, frankly, because if they were able to intercept that level of U.S. missiles, then the Pentagon has an enormous problem on their hands. We're seeing shows of damage to the (inaudible) research facility struck near Damascus. We haven't seen so much out of Homs yet. But more broadly Syrian State TV is able to sort of say, look at us. We're all back to normal. This didn't really hurt.

I think this was part of the strategy. It was real backing in the Pentagon to be sure that Moscow and Tehran didn't get wildly upset and do something irrational but still the message has been sent because there were three nations here acting in concert. We haven't seen that before, frankly, in the six messy years of this war militarily from the west at all and that is a key signal, I think, to Moscow, Tehran and Damascus.

It won't change the battle on the ground in terms of Syria's civil war but it wasn't meant to. This was also about chemical weapons and possibly somebody in Moscow calling somebody in Damascus saying you didn't need to put us through the last week with what happened in Douma. Don't do it again. Michael.