An attack aimed at Tanf, a lonely outpost in Syria near the Jordanian and Iraqi border, was reported on Wednesday night. There were no casualties, according to a statement by US officials.
According to BBC correspondent Nafiseh Kohnavard, there was a “drone attack on US troops in Al Tanf, Syria.” She noted that local forces said the drone came from the Iraq-Syria border area. Other reports online said the attack may have been done with rockets, not drones, though US officials confirmed it was a drone attack.
Pro-Iranian groups have increasingly used drones to target US forces in Iraq– including at the airport in Erbil– as well as Al-Asad base and US forces based in Syria. The drones were likely manufactured in Iran and trafficked to Iraq, though some of them may also be constructed in Iraq. Iran has exported drone blueprints and technology to Yemen, Gaza and Lebanon, and to pro-Iranian groups in Syria and Iraq.
An Iranian drone flown from Syria targeted Israel in February 2018, and in May 2021 a drone flown from Iraq or Syria also flew into Israeli airspace. In both cases, Israel shot them down. Hamas also used Iranian-style drones in the conflict in May.
Iran has trained drone operators across the region at a base called Kashan. Israel revealed information about this base in September 2021. An Iranian drone was also used to target a tanker off the coast of Yemen and Oman in July; two crewmembers on the tanker were killed. Iran also targeted Saudi Arabia in September 2019 with drones and cruise missiles.
The attack on Tanf is an escalation. While pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have increasingly used drones, the use of drones in Syria against US forces is relatively rare. These drones tend to be “kamikaze” drones, meaning they fly into their target. In June 2017, the US downed an Iranian drone near Tanf. An Iranian-made drone also targeted a US-led coalition patrol in June 2017 in the same area.
Tanf is a garrison where the US-led anti-ISIS coalition has trained Syrians. Near Jordan, it is a lonely base and outpost facility. It was established in 2016 and 2017 and has been cut off from the rest of coalition forces since 2018. There have been questions about whether the US would remain at the outpost. The Iranian and the Syrian regimes, as well as Russia, have often described the US presence at Tanf as illegal. In addition, pro-Iranian commentators have claimed that the base serves to collect intelligence and enable airstrikes against the Syrian regime.
In recent days, increased tensions between the regime and Syrian groups in Idlib – where Turkey has forces stationed – have led to clashes. Turkey has threatened a new offensive. A bomb in Damascus killed 14 today and Syria has blamed terrorists. In November 2019 Russia alleged that Israel overflew Jordan to carry out airstrikes in Syria.
Iran has been entrenching in Syria near Albukamal, at T-4 base near Palmyra, and also in Deir Ezzor in recent years. Hezbollah has also sent forces to the Golan. This means that there are tensions between pro-Iranian groups in Syria and the US and Israel. US forces in eastern Syria back the Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS. The Syrian regime has attempted to renew ties with Arab countries in the last year, doing outreach to Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and the Gulf; The reported drone attack comes in that context.
Iran’s drones have become an increasing threat across the region, from Yemen to Syria. Reports said explosions could be heard on Wednesday night near Tanf as a result of the drone attack. It is not clear if the drone or drones were shot down. The US Marines have reportedly tested or used a counter-drone system that can be put on rifles near Tanf. The US has other anti-drone weapons in Iraq, such as C-RAM. It is not clear what counter-UAV solutions the US has deployed in Syria.
Source » jpost