On Thursday, March 23, 2023, a coalition base near Hasakah in northeast Syria was attacked by a suicide drone of Iranian origin, killing one U.S. contractor and wounding six others. The U.S. responded with airstrikes on facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in eastern Syria.
This incident marks the latest escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran in Syria, where both countries have competing interests and influence. The U.S. supports local forces fighting against the Islamic State group (IS), while Iran backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.
The drone attack was one of 78 attacks against facilities housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since January 2021, according to Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). Most of these attacks are believed to have been carried out by Iran or Iranian-backed proxies.
The U.S. has retaliated with airstrikes on several occasions, targeting Iranian-linked targets in Syria and Iraq. The most recent strikes were authorized by President Joe Biden, who said he would take all necessary measures to defend U.S. personnel and interests.
The airstrikes were also intended to deter future attacks by Iran and its proxies, as well as to signal U.S. resolve and commitment to its partners in the region.
However, some analysts have questioned whether these strikes are effective or proportional, given that they have not stopped Iran from continuing its attacks.
Some have also warned that these strikes could increase the risk of miscalculation or escalation between the two sides.
Iran has denied any involvement in the drone attack on Thursday, calling it a “false flag” operation by Israel or other enemies.
Iran has also accused the U.S. of violating Syrian sovereignty and international law by conducting airstrikes without authorization from Damascus or the United Nations.
Iran has vowed to defend itself against any aggression by the U.S., Israel or their allies.
The situation in Syria remains complex and volatile, with multiple actors involved in a protracted conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more since 2011.
The U.S., Iran and other regional powers have different agendas and goals for Syria’s future.
The drone attack on Thursday and its aftermath highlight how fragile and dangerous this situation is for all parties involved.
Iran has been supporting various militia groups in Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011, mainly to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad and to counter Israel’s influence in the region. Iran has also been accused of using drones to carry out attacks across the Middle East, including against Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities and Israel’s maritime assets.
The latest escalation comes amid stalled negotiations between Iran and world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. The Biden administration has expressed its willingness to rejoin the deal if Iran returns to compliance with its obligations under it.