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May 22, 2024

Drone Strike on US Base in Syria Kills 6 Kurdish Fighters

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Feb 6, 2024

A drone strike targeted a training ground at a US military base in eastern Syria on Monday, killing 6 Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group allied with the US-led coalition battling remnants of the Islamic State in Syria. The attack threatens to escalate already heightened tensions in the region.

Attack Hits Base Used by US and Allied Forces

The drone attack occurred early Monday at a training ground used by the SDF near al-Omar oil field base in Deir Ezzor province, where US troops are stationed, according to US Central Command and SDF officials.

At least 6 members of the SDF were killed and 3 others were wounded, an SDF spokesman said. No US troops were hurt in the strike on the base, stated Army Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, who heads US Central Command.

The strikes came a day after US fighter jets carried out retaliatory attacks in eastern Syria and western Iraq, targeting facilities used by Iran-backed militias. Those strikes were themselves in response to an attack on a base in southern Syria last week, which wounded two US service members.

Iran-Backed Groups Suspected in Revenge Attack

While no group immediately claimed responsibility for Monday’s drone strike, U.S. officials said it was very likely carried out by militias aligned with Iran, seeking to retaliate for the U.S. strikes the day before.

The attacks underscore heightening tensions in the region between US forces and Iran-backed groups. Experts warn the tit-for-tat attacks could spiral out of control.

“This is a very vulnerable point we’ve returned to,” said Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. “Only months after the vicious attacks against US facilities in Syria and Iraq by Iranian proxies, we’re back to this.”

Iraq’s Powerful Paramilitaries Vow Revenge

Powerful Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups vowed revenge for the US strikes on their bases on Sunday.

Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, one of the hardline pro-Iran groups based in Iraq, said they were reserving “the right to respond to the United States at the appropriate time and place” for attacking its bases on the Iraq-Syria border.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, another Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim militia group, said “the resistance forces will take revenge for the attack at the appropriate time.”

Experts say the groups are likely to respond by attacking more US bases as well as targeting US aircraft carrying out strikes on their bases. The conflict creates further instability in the region as the US tries to conclude its campaign against ISIS in Syria.

Escalation Risks Wider Conflict

Analysts warn the rapid series of retaliatory attacks and counter-attacks risks spiraling out of control and triggering a wider regional conflict.

The powerful paramilitary groups are heavily armed and have access to drones for reconnaissance and attacks. Meanwhile the US has shown its intent to push back forcefully against attacks on its troops.

“The tit for tat strikes and retaliation risks greater escalation and miscalculation between armed actors that could trigger wider conflict between US and Iran-backed forces,” said Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

US Launches New Round of Airstrikes

As the clashes intensified, the US launched additional airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia groups on Tuesday.

US fighter jets struck three targets used by the militias to launch drone attacks, according to a US military statement. The strikes aimed to degrade the groups’ ability to carry out future strikes against US forces, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Russia urged restraint by all sides, warning that escalation risks triggering a dangerous broader conflict. Russia also questioned the legality of US strikes on Syrian territory.

Date Event
Feb 3 Iran-backed militias attack base in southern Syria, wounding 2 US troops
Feb 4 US carries out retaliatory strikes on Iran-backed militia bases in Syria and Iraq
Feb 5 Drone strike kills 6 Kurdish fighters at US base in eastern Syria
Feb 5 Iran-backed militias vow revenge for US strikes
Feb 6 US launches new round of airstrikes targeting militia groups

What Might Happen Next

  • Iran-backed militias likely to continue targeting US bases and troops in Syria and Iraq
  • US will likely conduct additional strikes aimed at degrading militia groups’ capabilities
  • Russia attempts to mediate and urges restraint, but has limited influence
  • Stakes are high on both sides, risks of miscalculation and spiraling conflict
  • With US policy focused on countering Iran, tensions could persist

Ultimately, the clashes over recent days and weeks reflect unresolved tensions stemming from decades of conflict and proxy battles for influence involving the US, Iran, militias and regional powers.

With the US signaling its intent to push back forcefully against attacks on its forces, while powerful militias vow revenge, the situation remains combustible. Further violence seems inevitable absent deescalation efforts or a change of course by the key actors involved.

Background

The clashes are playing out in eastern Syria near oil fields and along the Iraq-Syria border – strategic terrain that has changed hands during years of conflict.

US forces have remained in Syria since partnering with the SDF to battle ISIS, helping reclaim territory seized by the extremist group starting in 2014. Hundreds of US troops remain stationed in eastern Syria, working with Kurdish SDF fighters who act as the ground force continuing operations against ISIS.

Control over oil resources and border crossings also plays a strategic role for militia groups and regional powers competing for influence.

The clashes come as the US attempts to conclude its campaign against ISIS remnants in Syria. The Biden administration has made countering Iran’s regional activities a key priority, while also attempting to ease tensions with Saudi Arabia and Gulf states to reinforce alliances countering Iran’s proxies. Russia is also heavily involved militarily in Syria while attempting to boost its regional influence.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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