The United States military has conducted a series of airstrike in Syria against factions that it alleges are affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, in response to a drone attack on a US-led coalition base in the northeast of Syria last Thursday. The Pentagon has claimed that the drone attack resulted in the death of a contractor, injuries to another, and wounded five US troops. The US military has attributed the drone to Iranian origin, as per intelligence reports.
The airstrikes were carried out on Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields, where Iranian-backed militias and Syrian forces have been controlling the area. The province has witnessed a series of suspected air strikes by Israel in recent months, which were allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes. Video footage on social media revealed explosions overnight in the province.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has stated that the airstrikes aimed to target groups affiliated with the IRGC. Mr Austin further noted that the airstrikes were carried out in response to the drone attack and other recent attacks by factions associated with the IRGC on coalition forces in Syria.
The region has been experiencing attempts at de-escalation in tensions, with Saudi Arabia and Iran working towards reopening their embassies in each other’s countries. Efforts were also underway to reopen the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Syria, which has been embattled with Iran’s support for its long war.
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which is answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been suspected of carrying out bomb-carrying drone attacks across the Middle East. In recent months, Russia has also allegedly been using Iranian drones in its attacks on sites across Ukraine as part of its war on Kyiv. Tehran has denied being responsible for these attacks, but Western nations and experts have traced components of the drones back to Iran.
Syria’s SANA news agency and mission to the United Nations did not immediately acknowledge any strikes. Iran has not yet responded to the airstrikes that took place during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. However, there has been a reported call between Qatar’s foreign minister and Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, with Qatar serving as an interlocutor between Iran and the US amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program.
US President Joe Biden has directed the retaliatory strikes, as confirmed by Mr Austin, who further added that the measures were authorized to defend US troops, and no group would be allowed to strike them with impunity. The Pentagon revealed that two of the injured service members were treated on-site, while the remaining three and the wounded contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq.