Elizabeth Boyle , Staff
Five American Service members were wounded and a US contractor was killed in Syria on a coalition base near Hasakah, Syria by an Iranian-made missile on Thursday, March 23. The US military and supporting contractors have been directly involved in Syria since 2015 when they entered the country to help the Syrians fight against ISIS. Currently, there is more than 900 US personnel there.
Pete Marovich, The New York Times
The attack came from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, led by Ayatollah Ali Khameneior groups affiliated with them. This was not the only attack from them over the last few months. They have hit various targets across the Middle East. There have been 78 attacks since January of 2021 and all are speculated to be from Iran or organizations supported by Iran. Iran has denied the previous attacks on US facilities, and they have not publicly acknowledged the attacks from Thursday.
John Kirby the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs said, “It’s pretty clear to us and to the intelligence community and to the Pentagon that this was an Iranian one-way drone attack. We’ve been able to identify that with certainty.” The US responded quickly with “precision attacks” into eastern Syria that were approved by President Biden. General Michael Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command, reported that the US was explicitly responding to the attacks on facilities housing US service members. Kurilla expressed his concern for Iranian drones. He stated that they are being used by Russia in the War against Ukraine currently. Kurilla says, “The Iranian regime now holds the largest and most capable unmanned aerial vehicles force in the region.”
Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s press spokesman, in an interview about the US response to the attacks stated, “The [US] priority in Syria is on the defeat of ISIS mission and that will remain our focus. We do not seek conflict with Iran. We do not seek escalation with Iran. But the strikes that we took last night were intended to send a very clear message that we will take the protection of our personnel seriously and we will respond quickly and decisively if they are threatened.” Ryder also stated that the US attacks were based on multiple attacks from Iran against coalition forces in Syria that are associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The Syrian humanitarian group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, is based out of London and was upset with the US response to the attacks. They stated that the US response strikes killed eleven people on the ground. They believe that 6 people were near the Harabesh neighborhoods, three more in the town of Boukamal, and two near the town of Mayadeen. These reports have not been confirmed.
Military specialists are worried about the conflict escalating. In addition to the use of Iranian drones by Russia to fire missiles at Ukraine, Russia has been flying planes into Syrian airspace. This is violating an agreement made four years ago. These attacks also happened at a poor time for Saudi Arabia as they were discussing with Iran the possibility of reopening their embassies.