That said it’s still unfortunate that a US military operation, if one does occur, has taken so long to develop, say some military experts outside government. For one thing, it has given the Russian Navy time to deploy ships to the Mediterranean, giving an ally of Assad the ability to shadow US destroyers.
The Russian reconnaissance vessel SSV-201 Priazovye left the Russian Black Sea Fleet port of Sevastopol Sept. 1, bound for waters off Syria, reports the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). It should have little trouble locating the US Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the area, given the electronic emissions of powerful US naval radars.
Cruise missiles, at launch, aren’t exactly stealth weapons – they ride hundreds of feet straight up on rockets before wings unfold, their turbofan engines start, and they fly off toward targets. Russia’s naval assets might be able to provide Syria a crucial cushion of warning time against such an attack.
Syrian military buildings can’t move, of course. But missile launchers and the generals who command them can.
“By significantly delaying the potential strike against the Assad regime, not only has the US given Assad considerable time to prepare for the attack in Syria, it has given Russia time to position intelligence assets that can immediately alert the Assad regime of exactly when the [Tomahawk land attack] missiles are launched,” writes ISW.
The US loss of strategic surprise could also enable the Assad regime to use human shields in an attempt to protect its military assets.