Iran has been blamed for an attack on a military base in southern Syria where around 200 US troops are based. The outpost at al-Tanf, controlled by Syrian opposition forces, was subjected to a "coordinated and deliberate attack through drones and indirect fire", according to a statement by US Central Command.
Five armed drones were launched on Al-Tanf last Wednesday. No-one was reported injured, but Centcom spokesman Bill Urban told reporters in the aftermath: “We are communicating with partners to see if they have any casualties. US forces reserve the right to self-defense, and the right to respond at a place and time of their choosing.”
An investigation was opened into the attack last week and on Monday, officials told reporters that the drones were Iranian, and Iran appeared to have facilitated their use. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to provide details, but called it a “complex, coordinated and deliberate attack” and said the US had seen similar operations launched by Iran-backed Shia militia groups.
Pro-Islamic Republic media outlets have claimed the attack on al-Tanf came in response to the latest Israeli strikes near Palmyra in eastern Syria. According to the Syrian state-run SANA News Agency, the attack resulted in the death of at least one Syrian soldier and the wounding of three others. The number of Iranian casualties was not mentioned.
Shortly afterward, Unews Press Agency ran a statement attributed to the Iranian "Syria Allies Operations Room", in which the umbrella group for pro-Assad Shia militias vowed to respond. “The attack resulted in a number of martyrs and wounded in the ranks of the Brothers Mujahideen,” it read. “The command of the operations room made the decision to respond in retaliation for the lives of the martyrs and the blood of the wounded, and the response will be very harsh.”
Al-Tanf is located in a strategic area near the Syrian border crossing with Iraq and Jordan. The base was established in 2016 by forces of the international coalition against ISIS, led by the US.
The base is located within a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone, but very close to a cluster of pro-Assad, Iranian-backed forces operating checkpoints in the area. Several incidents in recent months suggest the possibility of an armed clash in the area between US and Iranian or Iranian-backed forces, according to Crisis Group, an organization that specializes in field analytics.