US air strikes in Syria after drone attack

The Pentagon said an attack on Thursday by a suspected Iranian-made drone killed a US contractor and wounded six other Americans in northeastern Syria, and forces The United States has retaliated with airstrikes on sites in Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Activists say the US bombing killed at least four people.

While this is not the first time the US and Iran have attacked each other in Syria, the US strike and response threaten to upset recent efforts to reduce tensions across the wider Middle East. , where rival powers have taken steps toward détente in recent days after years. chaotic.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the US intelligence community had identified the drone as originating from Iran, but offered no other direct evidence to support the claim. this dad. Drones hit a coalition base in the city of Hasaka, northeastern Syria. The wounded included five US service members and an American contractor.

Austin said the attacks were a response to the drone strike “as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria” by groups affiliated with the US Forces. Revolutionary Guards.

Iran relies on a network of proxies in the Middle East to counter the United States and Israel, its arch-enemies in the region. The United States has had forces in northeastern Syria since 2015, when it deployed as part of the fight against the Islamic State group and maintains about 900 troops there, partnering with militias. The Kurdish leadership controls about a third of Syria.

Activists say US airstrikes have hit targets in three towns in eastern Syria. Overnight, videos on social media showed explosions in Deir el-Zour, a strategic province bordering Iraq and home to oil fields. Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which has also seen suspected Israeli air strikes in recent months allegedly targeting Israel’s supply routes Iran.

According to a defense official, the US counterattack was carried out by F-15 fighter jets flying from al-Udeid airbase in Qatar. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

According to a US official, US F-15s hit three locations, all in the vicinity of Deir el-Zour.

Activist group Deir Ezzor 24, which carries news in the province, said the US strikes had killed four people and wounded several others, including Iraqis.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war watchdog, said the death toll in the US airstrikes was 11 Iranian-backed fighters – including six at a weapons depot in the area. Harabesh street in the city of Deir el-Zour and five others at military posts. near the towns of Mayadeen and Boukamal.

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Observatory, said three rockets were fired earlier Friday at the al-Omar oil field in Deir el-Zour, home to US troops, an apparent retaliation against with American attacks.

The Associated Press could not immediately independently confirm the activist’s reports. Iran and Syria did not immediately acknowledge the attacks, nor did their officials at the United Nations in New York respond to a request for comment from the AP.

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, responsible only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been suspected of carrying out bomb-carrying drone attacks across the Middle East.

The exchange of strikes goes as Saudi Arabia and Iran has been working to reopen embassies in each other’s countries. The Kingdom also acknowledged efforts to reopening the Saudi Embassy in Syriawhom President Bashar Assad is struggling with has been backed by Iran in his country’s long war.

US Army General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, head of the US military’s Central Command, warned that its forces could carry out additional strikes if needed. “We are open to scalable options in the face of any further Iranian attack,” Kurilla said in a statement.

Speaking before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Kurilla warned lawmakers that “Iran today has an exponentially stronger military capability than it did even five years ago.” He pointed to Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and bomb-carrying drones.

“What Iran does to hide its hands is they use Iranian proxies,” Kurilla said.

According to officials, Iran has carried out 80 strikes against US forces and sites in Iraq and Syria since January 2021. The majority of them have been in Syria.

Diplomacy to de-escalate the exchange seems to begin immediately. Qatar’s foreign minister spoke by phone with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as well as Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, Qatar’s state news agency reported. Doha has recently been a party to dialogue between Iran and the US amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Austin said he authorized the retaliatory attacks at the direction of President Joe Biden.

“As President Biden has made clear, we will take every measure necessary to protect our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said. “No group will attack our army with impunity.”

The United States under Biden has attacked Syria before because of tensions with Iran — in February and June 2021, as well as August 2022.

Dareen Khalifa, a senior Syria analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said that while Thursday’s exchange attack came at a politically sensitive time due to “US relations -Iran deteriorated and nuclear talks stalled. Don’t expect a significant escalation.

“These tit-for-tat attacks have been going on for a long time,” Khalifa said, although she noted that they usually don’t result in casualties.

“Despite the risk of a cycle of escalation, I think the Biden administration will not be eager to escalate in Syria now and will instead have a relatively moderate response,” she said.

Hamidreza Azizi, an expert from the German Institute of International and Security Affairs, said that since the US drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guards in 2020, Iran has sought to “make life difficult for US forces stationed east of the Euphrates River”.

“Iran has increased support for local proxies in Deir el-Zour while attempting to align with tribal forces in the region,” Azizi wrote in a recent analysis. “Due to geographical proximity, Iraqi groups have also increased their activities in the border strip with Syria and in Deir el-Zour province.”

The strikes took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Syria’s war began with the Arab Spring protests of 2011 that roiled the wider Middle East and toppled governments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. It then turned into a regional proxy conflict that saw Russia and Iran back Assad. The United Nations estimates more than 300,000 civilians were killed in the war. Those numbers do not include soldiers and insurgents killed in the conflict; Their number is said to be in the tens of thousands.


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