Tensions between Iran and the US reached alarming points this Friday after a second US base in Syria was attacked, allegedly by Iranian-affiliated groups.
Following an airstrike on facilities allegedly controlled by Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria this Thursday, rockets hit another US base located in the Al-Omar gas field of northeastern Syria.
During the past week, tensions between Iran and the United States, especially in Syria, have risen to alarming points. The first move started in the early hours of Thursday, when a deadly drone attack allegedly carried out by Iranian-controlled militia groups hit a US base near Hasakah in Syria’s northeast and killed an American contractor, injured another, and wounded five US soldiers.
Thursday’s drone attack hurt the US like never before in the region because it took the life of an American military member which is per se an unprecedented event for US soldiers in Syria. Admitting the attack, US President Joe Biden held a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday and said, “Make no mistake, the United States does not, does not emphasize, seek conflict with Iran, but be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people, that’s exactly what happened last night.”
He also extended condolences on the death of the U.S. contractor and wished a “speedy recovery for those who were wounded.”
But despite Biden’s peaceful-looking words, he didn’t hesitate to order a retaliatory attack that was way deadlier. Less than 24 hours, the U.S. retaliated with airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Harabesh district located in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. The attacks hit buildings that housed drone assets and vehicles used by groups affiliated with the Islamic Republic. According to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the U.S. airstrikes on Friday killed 11 fighters on the ground, most of whom allegedly affiliated with Iran.
Tit-for-tat game still ongoing between Iran and US
With no intention to back off in the tit-for-tat game that is now ongoing between Tehran and Washington, Friday’s airstrike was responded, this time not by drones, but by deadly rockets that targeted another US base located near oil and gas fields known as Conoco in the vicinity of Deir Ezzor in Syria.
According to a statement by Maj. John Moore, a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), “On the evening of March 24th, multiple rockets targeted coalition forces at Mission Support Site Conoco,” where some of the 900 US troops in Syria are based. The attacks, as Maj. More noted, “caused no casualties but it left one US service member with injuries”.
Fear of Iran growing among US officials
In addition to Joe Biden who said quite openly and with extra emphasis that the United States does not seek conflict with Iran, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, emphasized to reporters in a Friday press conference that the US is not at all interested in escalating tensions with Iran.
“We don’t seek escalation with Iran,” Ryder said, “but the strikes that we took last night were intended to send a very clear message that we will take the protection of our personnel seriously and that we will respond quickly and decisively if they’re threatened,” he added.
Iran is the only country that has ever dared to challenge US interests in the Middle East region and has reacted to American military threats with military attacks. A notable example of such a show of hard response to US was back in 2020 when Iran retaliated for the killing of Iran’s top military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi air bases housing U.S. forces.
Despite then-US President Donald Trump’s claim that “no Americans were harmed” in the missile attacks, the Washington Post reported in January 2020 that 34 American troops were diagnosed with severe brain injuries after the attack, a number that reached more than 100 according to a report by CNN only a month later in February 2020.