The US military said on Thursday that its retaliatory strikes killed eight Iranian fighters in Syria last week, adding that several other US soldiers suffered brain injuries.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. General Patrick Ryder said US airstrikes on March 24 near Deir ez-Zor in northeastern Syria targeted two facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Eight fighters were killed, according to Ryder, although they did not appear to be Iranian citizens.
“As far as I know, not Iranians. These are individuals associated with the IRGC,” Ryder told reporters.
Ryder also said that six US soldiers were found to have traumatic brain injuries following attacks by Iranian-backed forces on US military positions in northeastern Syria on March 23 and 24.
Background: On March 23, a drone struck a facility used by the US military in Hasakah in northeastern Syria. A US contractor was killed and five US soldiers and another US contractor were injured. The Department of Defense said the drone was of Iranian origin. In response, CENTCOM conducted airstrikes against targets in eastern Syria that it said were being used by groups aligned with the IRGC. On March 24, another US military site known as the Green Village in northeastern Syria was attacked with rockets, injuring one US soldier.
Ryder said the six people injured from the Hasakah drone attack and the one injured in Green Village are in stable condition. He also said that four of the soldiers who suffered brain trauma were near Hasakah, and the other two in Green Village.
Why it’s important: Last week’s tit-for-tat attacks significantly escalated the conflict between US forces and pro-Iranian forces in the region. Although such strikes against US forces in Syria have occurred in the past, most recently in January with the drone attack on al-Tanf, this month’s strikes recorded more casualties than in the past two years and exposed the vulnerability of US forces to drone attacks i. Syria.
The strikes also occurred as Iran neared the development of nuclear weapons-grade uranium. Last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Gene said. Mark Milley told Congress that the US has developed “multiple options” in the event that Iran develops a nuclear weapon.