Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Tom McInerney is applauding the Trump administration for building a coalition to strike Syria and carrying out a successful attack, but he says solving the long-term challenges there requires collaboration with Russia and that cannot happen so long as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe.
On Friday night (early Saturday in Syria), the U.S., along with Great Britain and France, fired dozens of missiles at three specific targets in Syria in response for the chemical weapons attack that took place several days earlier.
As McInerney suspected last week, President Trump took longer to order a response in order to build international support and participation. He’s thrilled our allies took part and says the cooperation extended beyond London and Paris.
“I think that was outstanding. Having those two partners is extremely important. In addition, we had other partners. We fired (some) missiles from the Red Sea that went over Saudi Arabia and other locations. So we had other, de facto partners as well, which is equally important,” said McInerney.
He’s also thrilled with the results of the mission.
“We got three important targets, one of them in Damascus, which was their research and development center for chemical weapons and a very important target. We took that out as well as two other targets, one a production and the other a storage facility,” said McInerney.
The U.S. fired 105 missiles, primarily cruise missiles, and none were shot down, contrary to assertions from the Syrian government.
Last week, McInerney recommended wiping out the Syrian air force if the U.S. was convinced the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical attack. He says coalition building made that impossible.
“When we went for the allies to be participating with us, that put time in the equation. That meant the Syrian air force moved a lot of their assets in with the Russians…because they knew we wouldn’t strike anything with the Russians in it,” said McInerney.
Trump telegraphed the attack in various tweets and public statements last week, but McInerney says it’s clear the administration was communicating with Moscow long before the missiles started flying.
“They were well aware of it. They elected to let us go in and do it. I think that was the right move.
“There’s a lot of talk going on about what they’re going to do to retaliate, etc. But I think the Russians got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, so they didn’t want to see what President Trump was going to do and the other allies. Getting the UK and the French involved was a very important decision,” said McInerney.
Despite the strong Russian denunciation of any response, McInerney believes Russia is smart enough not to overreact.
“You can never tell but I really believe that President Putin does not want to have a direct confrontation down there. He doesn’t have nearly the size of the forces we have, and he certainly doesn’t want to open the door for others to go in.” he said.
McInerney says solving the problems involving Syria, the Kurds, the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, and other radical groups like the Al-Nusra Front is deeply complicated, but he says working constructively with Russia is a big part of the solution.
“We need to get an accommodation. The only way there’s going to be an accommodation over there in Syria – and it’s going to be divided up – is with the U.S. and Russia agreeing to work together,” said McInerney.
“That’s why the Mueller investigation that’s going on right now is impacting our national security. I believe the Republican Congress ought to close that operation down. The only collusion was between the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign with Russia. Yet, the Obama administration concocted the idea that the Trump [campaign] were the ones colluding,” said McInerney.
If the U.S. and Russia were to carve up Syria, what ought to be the greatest priorities? McInerney says President Obama’s inaction opened the door for Russian intervention and has made it next to impossible to remove Bashar al-Assad. He believes we have no choice but to allow Russia to keep its bases there.
He says the top goal should be limiting Iranian influence in the region.
“We need stability in the region. We do not want to have a Shia Crescent that sweeps from Iran, through Iraq, through Syria, and to the Mediterranean. That is not in the interest of the free world,” said McInerney.