Unnamed US Officials have stated, to the Associated Press, that they believe Iran was behind an attack last week against an American base in Syria. After the attack occurred, CENTCOM vowed that a US response would come. Is the Biden administration willing to risk war with Iran?
Last Wednesday a coordinated set of drones and projectiles (likely rockets) struck the al-Tanf military base in southern Syria, which is under the control of the United States military and allied mercenary militia groups. The strike was said to have not killed or injured any US personnel, according to the US government, despite the attack having targeted portions of the base where American forces are stationed. The casualties that may have been suffered by supporting militia groups, are still unknown.
Immediately after the attack, US Central Command spokesman, Capt. Bill Urban, said that they “maintain the inherent right of self-defense and will respond at a time and place of our choosing,” which now raises several alarms over who exactly the Biden Administration are seeking to carry out a revenge attack against.
Whilst the United States has now confirmed it has boots on the ground inside of Southern Syria’s al-Tanf, they are on record admitting to maintaining a military presence inside two separate areas in Syria. US presence on Syrian lands, alongside their allied Kurdish ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) and mercenary militias, constitutes a de-facto military occupation of roughly a third of Syrian territory, all without any congressional approval or even the knowledge of their presence for most of the US public.
So far this year, the United States government has admitted to at least two strikes on Syrian and Iraqi lands, again without congressional approval. Both of these admitted attacks were carried out against groups belonging to the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMU), which are an official branch of Iraq’s national security apparatus. Washington’s allies in Tel Aviv have also continued to attack Syria, with Israel committing at least four separate attacks in the space of a month, killing a Syrian soldier, a former Syrian Minister, and injuring tens of Syrian Arab Army members.
Israel’s latest attack came during the early hours of Monday morning, reportedly targeting a Syrian military site, along with observation posts claimed to have been used by Hezbollah. Among other areas, the town of al-Baath, which is located close to the Syrian-Israel buffer zone, were subjected to Israeli helicopter strikes. Israeli media has also claimed that Iranian backed groups had been firing Iranian-made air defense, surface to air missiles towards incoming Israeli fighter jets during some of Israel’s recent attacks. Often claims are made in the Israeli and Syrian opposition media, as well as by the politicians in Tel Aviv, that Iran-backed groups are committing acts for which there is never any proof, but the claims in and of themselves provide Israel with an excuse for its actions, hence they should be paid attention.
If the US government is to seek revenge against Iran, by striking Iranians or Iran’s mainland, President Joe Biden could end up sleep-walking into a regional war of catastrophic proportions. It is now expected that US retaliation will come for the attack on their illegally occupying forces, but who they choose to target could make a big difference.
It’s likely that the US will again strike groups belonging to the PMU, such as Kataeb Hezbollah, which would not likely escalate tensions too dramatically. Biden has gotten away with this before and despite a spike in attacks on American forces in Iraq, the price has not been too significant. In addition to this, the Iraqi and Syrian governments did nothing to the US in return, other than offering short condemnations.
But if the US goes a step further and decides to blame Iran, targeting members of Iran’s ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC), killing or injuring any of them in the process, the Iranian reaction may be overwhelming. Under the reformist President, Hassan Rouhani, Iran launched a strike with dozens of ballistic missiles at the biggest US base in the Middle East, the Ain al-Asad facility in Western Iraq. However, the new Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, is not looking to ingratiate himself with Western officials and holds a much more radical view of the fight against foreign adversaries than his predecessor.
Depending on what the US chooses to do, they could be dealing with a much greater scale of attack from Iran. At the very least, the Iranian government will seek a harsher revenge than any Iraqi militias. Whilst Biden promised to create peace with Iran, by re-entering the Nuclear Deal, it seems that he may now be heading towards provoking a military standoff with Tehran, which is not exactly what he promised the US public when they voted him into office.