U.S. strikes eastern Syria, after deadly attack by Iran-backed group
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – The Pentagon announced late on Thursday that it had responded to an attack on a Coalition base in northeast Syria earlier that day which killed a U.S. contractor and wounded six others, five of them U.S. troops.
The Pentagon described the attack, saying “a one-way unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] struck a maintenance facility on a Coalition base near Hasakah in northeast Syria at approximately 1:38 p.m. local time.”
Below is a statement from the CENTCOM Commander on the precision strikes in response to American casualties in Syria. pic.twitter.com/MIJeQh1VtD— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) March 24, 2023
The U.S. responded with what Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called “precision airstrikes” in eastern Syria “against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”
According to the U.S. intelligence community, the UAV was “of Iranian origin,” the Pentagon said, as it explained its targeting.
Numerous social media accounts reported air strikes in Deir ez-Zor, although U.S. officials did not identify clearly where the retaliatory attack had occurred.
“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” Austin stated.
In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) last week, CENTCOM Commander, Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, described Iran as “the largest malign actor in the region.”
“Less than 60 hours ago,” Kurilla said in his March 16 testimony, “we had a rocket attack from an Iranian-aligned militia group against one of our bases in Syria.”
Indeed, Kurilla told the SASC that over the past 90 days, Iran’s malign activity in the region had been increasing, including attacks by Iranian-backed groups on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
Kurilla suggested that there was a “lack of deterrence against Iran”—that is, Tehran was not inhibited from attacking U.S. targets out of any fear about how the U.S. might respond. Thursday’s UAV assault seemed to demonstrate that Kurilla was quite correct.
In announcing Thursday’s developments, Austin described the U.S. retaliatory attack as “precision strikes” which “are intended to protect and defend U.S. personnel.”
“The United States took proportionate and deliberate action,” he said, “intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties.”
Whether that will prove effective in deterring further attacks from Iran and its proxies remains to be seen.
There is a long-standing critique of the moderate and restrained position that Austin expressed.
The critique holds that such a position does not really discourage further attacks, because the enemy does not fear a proportionate, tit-for-tat response. Indeed, the enemy may well calculate that such limited losses are acceptable.
Rather, this critique argues, it is fear of a large-scale, disproportionate response that is best suited to establish deterrence, otherwise the enemy may feel emboldened to continue small scale attacks with minimal repercussions.