Iran was behind a drone attack launched against a military outpost in Syria last week where some U.S. forces are stationed, Pentagon officials said on Monday.
Defense Department officials further noted that while they believe Iran provided resources and encouragement for the attack, the drones themselves were not launched from Iranian territory.
They were, however, Iranian drones and Tehran likely provided them directly to militants said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not cleared to discuss details that had yet to be made public, The Associated Press reported.
U.S. officials went on to say that they believe upwards of five explosives-laden drones were utilized in the attack, and that they struck the U.S. side of the al-Tanf base and side where forces opposed to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad are stationed. No injuries or deaths were reported following the attack.
American troops are stationed alongside coalition troops who are in-country to train Syrian forces on tactics aimed at targeting militants from the Islamic State. The garrison itself is located along a road that is seen as important to forces backed by Iran stretching from that country to southern Lebanon and into Israel.
John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, did not provide reporters with additional details when asked about the reported attack during a Monday media briefing. He described it as a “complex, coordinated and deliberate attack,” adding that U.S. forces have seen or experienced similar assaults launched by Shia militia groups Iran is supporting. He did not provide any more specifics, however, and said he did not have any information regarding the types of explosives used.
“The protection and security of our troops overseas remains a paramount concern for the secretary,” Kirby said, in reference to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, adding “that if there is to be a response, it will be at a time and a place and a manner of our choosing, and we certainly won’t get ahead of those kinds of decisions.”
Media outlets supportive of Iran noted that the Tanf attack was carried out by “Syria’s allies,” which appears to be a reference to Tehran-backed organizations, as retaliation for a previous attack days earlier near the Syrian city of Palmyra. Israeli was blamed for that attack, and U.S. officials have denied any involvement by the Pentagon.
“You can consider that the strike on Tanf was an implementation” of a previous pledge to respond to the Palmyra attack, said an official with the Axis of Resistance movement, an anti-Western political and military coalition of groups and countries including Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and other groups fighting with Assad’s government forces, the AP reported.
The attack on Tanf comes at a crucial juncture amid a continuing effort by the Biden administration to bring Iran back into the 2015 nuclear deal, though patience is fleeting in the White House.
The last major Iranian attack against U.S. forces was a ballistic missile strike on the al-Asad airbase in Iraq in January 2020. U.S. forces were warned ahead of time, though about 100 received traumatic brain injuries. That attack was in response to a U.S. drone strike days earlier near the Baghdad airport, in which Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were both killed.
In response to the missile barrage, the Trump administration sent U.S. fighter jets to strike five locations two months later “targeting Iranian-backed Shiite militia members believed responsible for the January rocket attack,” the AP reported.
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