Update(1833ET): The Pentagon said Wednesday it is looking into reports of an exchange of fire between pro-Iranian groups in Syria and the US coalition forces. Meanwhile during the evening (local time), The Jerusalem Post reports that President Biden has authorized a second round of US airstrikes:
A second round of airstrikes by the US-led international coalition operating in Iraq and Syria targeted Iran-linked sites in the Deir al-Zor region of eastern Syria on Wednesday evening, according to local reports.
The airstrikes targeted Iran-backed militias in the city of Al-Mayadin and Saker Island, according to the reports.
Alongside the reported airstrikes, reports by both Syrian and foreign media indicated that a number of rockets had been fired towards the Green Village and Conoco gas fields, both sites where US forces are hosted.
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) August 24, 2022
Local pro-Assad and Iran-backed forces appear to be retaliating, in a dangerous situation that suggests escalation after years of US forces occupying Syria’s oil and gas rich northeast region, ever since Trump’s “secure the oil” mission which has been kept in place by Biden.
This comes after the prior evening’s US strikes on militias in Deir ez-Zor, said to be retaliation for last week’s missile attacks on the US base at al-Tanf, along the Iraqi border. Follow-up reports say last night’s initial strike was conducted by multiple manned fighter jets.
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The Pentagon has confirmed that President Biden ordered airstrikes on Iran-backed groups in Syria on Tuesday, following a series of reported attacks on a remote US base in eastern Syria and which appeared to also target ground allies being trained by American special forces.
“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces conducted precision airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor Syria today. These precision strikes are intended to defend and protect US forces from attacks like the ones on August 15 against US personnel by Iran-backed groups,” a CENTCOM statement said.
That prior incident from last Monday (8/15) occurred at what’s called the Green Village base near the Iraqi border. It involved a volley of rockets fired on the compound by an unknown entity, some of which failed to launch and were later recovered by US forces. A prior statement from Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) said the base has a “small number” of coalition troops, including Americans, and that the attack didn’t result in any casualties.
On that same day a week ago, two small drones attacked al-Tanf Garrison in southeast Syria, in what was suspected to be a possible coordinated attack. The US command never identified the group behind the missile attack, and the other similar recent episodes such as against Tanf base – which have also occurred sporadically over prior months.
But the Pentagon views pro-Iran militia attacks which have previously happened over the years also in Iraq as part of a larger overall pattern in an attempt to push US forces out of the region.
Concerning this fresh, and somewhat rare counter-strike, the Pentagon statement said that Biden “gave the direction for these strikes pursuant to his Article II authority to protect and defend US personnel by disrupting or deterring attacks by Iran-backed groups.”
The US military also called it a “proportionate, deliberate” action necessary to defend US forces on the ground. However it remains that of course from the perspective of Damascus (as well as Assad’s Iranian and Russian allies), the US military is occupying sovereign Syrian soil with hostile intentions.
CNN provides some of the details of the US strikes based on its sources as follows:
Buccino told CNN the US targeted a group of bunkers used for ammunition storage and logistics support by Iranian-backed groups in Syria. The US military monitored a total of 13 bunkers in the same complex extensively, Buccino said, totaling more than 400 hours of surveillance.
The strike was intended to target 11 of the bunkers, since the US could not be certain whether the other two bunkers were clear of people, Buccino said.
The statement further asserted that the strikes were then limited to just 9 of the bunkers because of a “small group of people nearby” that the operation did not intend to target.
While Israel’s attacks on “Iranian militias” in recent years have been frequent, and have come under growing condemnation by Russia, such US aerial attacks inside Syria have remained much more uncommon.