U.S. forces conducted multiple airstrikes on targets in eastern Syria reportedly linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on President Joe Biden’s orders on Tuesday night.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced the strikes in a statement provided to American Military News on Tuesday night.
“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces conducted precision airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor Syria today,” CENTCOM spokesperson Col. Joe Buccino said. “These precision strikes are intended to defend and protect U.S. forces from attacks like the ones on August 15 against U.S. personnel by Iran-backed groups. The U.S. strikes targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
Buccino’s statement refers to attacks on U.S. bases in Syria, including Al-Tanf Garrison and Green Village. Both U.S.-controlled bases came under rocket fire on Aug. 15, though the U.S. forces suffered no casualties and neither U.S. base appeared to suffer any damage as a result of the inaccurate rocket fire.
The U.S. bases in Syria were established as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the U.S.-led mission to counter the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
CJTF-OIR officials did not immediately attribute the Aug. 15 rocket attacks to IRGC-linked militia groups, however, CENTCOM’s statement Tuesday night indicates the Biden administration holds those groups responsible for the attacks.
“Today’s strikes were necessary to protect and defend U.S. personnel,” Buccino said. “The United States took proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize the risk of casualties. The President gave the direction for these strikes pursuant to his Article II authority to protect and defend U.S. personnel by disrupting or deterring attacks by Iran-backed groups.”
The CENTCOM statement did not specify the exact targets of the airstrikes, but Reuters national security correspondent Idrees Ali tweeted, “The U.S. military strike in Syria yesterday hit 9 targets and used 8 manned fighter jets, a U.S. official says.”
“Specifically, 4 F-16s and 4 F-15s were used and 9 GBU’s were dropped,” Ali added.
The airstrikes also come in the weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice charged an IRGC member with attempting to hire people in the U.S. to assassinate former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Biden has faced recent pressure to block Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi from visiting the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York next month over the alleged assassination plots.
The U.S. strikes come as the Biden administration is continuing to negotiate with Iran towards a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On Aug. 19, CNN reported Iran had dropped a demand that the U.S. take the IRGC of the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
It remains to be seen if Tuesday’s U.S. airstrikes on IRGC-linked targets will further delay Iran deal negotiations.
“The United States does not seek conflict, but will continue to take necessary measures to protect and defend our people,” Buccino said Tuesday.
There are currently about 900 U.S. troops currently in Syria, according to Newsweek. Those U.S. forces are mostly split between their Al-Tanf Garrison in southern Syria and outposts near oil fields in the country’s east. Buccino said, “U.S. forces remain in Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.”