American Defense Forces and Militia Attacks in Syria: The Associated Pentagon and the Iraq–Based Reaper Air Bases
The two Iran-linked facilities that were targeted in the U.S. strikes in Syria were affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, officials said at the time. The US chose to target storage sites in Syria because many of the attacks have happened in Iraq, officials said when asked why.
Pentagon officials said the attacks have become more dangerous since the American strikes because they have continued. Iran-backed militias have packed even larger loads of explosives — more than 80 pounds — onto drones launched at American bases, U.S. officials said.
Lloyd Austin said the President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action so that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.
“The United States is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities,” he added. “We urge against any escalation.”
The strikes came after the Pentagon said a U.S. military MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone was shot down off the coast of Yemen on Wednesday by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The United States and Iran have been involved in violent conflicts in the region, and the recent downing of the drone is an example of this. The episode demonstrated the risks of a war between Israel and Hamas.
The Biden administration is trying to decide how to deter the Shiite militias from attacking American troops in the region without sparking a larger conflict, spoke to three administration officials who talked on condition of anonymity.
“The attacks, the threats coming from militia that are aligned with Iran, are totally unacceptable,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in Iraq on Sunday.
According to the Pentagon, a total of 45 personnel have been injured and all of them have been in attacks. The majority of the injured were at al-Tanf garrison in southeastern Syria, with a combination of minor injuries and traumatic brain injuries, while others were at al-Asad air base in western Iraq. One person was injured at Irbil air base in Iraq.
The U.S. officials attempt to game out the response each strike will bring, one official said. The Pentagon and American intelligence community have good information on where militia leaders are, and have considered the possible blowback if they are killed, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation.
Two officials said that the Biden administration uses a deconfliction line with Russia to try to prevent war in Iraq and Syria. Russia has troops in Syria, and American officials say they expect that telling Russia before a strike in Syria is the same as telling Iran, as Russian officials often inform Tehran of what is coming.
Since Hamas’s surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, President Biden and his aides have sought to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from spilling over into a regional conflict with Iran and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
The department has moved air defense systems and other forces to the region to protect U.S. forces. And on multiple occasions, the systems have intercepted incoming strikes. There are more ships, more missiles, and more fighters in the Middle East than there were a year ago. The official was talking about force numbers that are not yet public.
The leader of militant groups in Lebanon, Iraq, and Gaza view Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, as a powerful ally because he has pledged to destroy Israel.
“We assess Iran, Hezbollah, and their linked proxies are trying to calibrate their activity, avoiding actions that would open up a concerted second front with the United States or Israel, while still exacting costs in the midst of the current conflict,” Christine S. Abizaid, the leader of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a Senate panel last week. “This is a very fine line to walk.”
U.S. strikes against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Weapon Storage Facility near Maysulun in Deir el-Zour
In Wednesday’s strike, two U.S. F-15 fighter jets dropped multiple bombs on a weapons storage facility near Maysulun in Deir el-Zour that was known to be used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, U.S. officials said.
When the strike occurred, the number of people saw at the warehouse fell to about “a couple”, according to a military official. The official said the strike triggered secondary explosions, indicating the presences of weapons, but the U.S. believes that no civilians were killed and any people at the warehouse were tied to the Revolutionary Guard or militia groups.
The day of an explosion in a hospital in Gaza, killing hundreds and triggering protests in a number of Muslim nations. The Israeli military has relentlessly attacked Gaza in retaliation for the devastating Hamas rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
The officials have said that the strikes are meant to deter further attacks. The projectiles and drones have been launched almost daily and have resulted in little damage or injuries.
The initial U.S. strike didn’t convince Iran to stop the attacks, acknowledged a senior defense official. But, the official said, the strikes show America’s willingness to use military force.