Iran-backed militants target US base in Syria after air strikes
An American base in eastern Syria was targeted by missiles on Friday, a day after the US launched air strikes against Iran-backed militia bases in retaliation for a deadly drone attack.
An American base at Al-Omar oil field was targeted by a salvo of missiles on Friday morning, Reuters reported, hours after the Pentagon announced carrying out multiple “precision air strikes” against facilities in eastern Syrian used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The US air strikes came after American intelligence concluded that a drone used to attack a US base near Hassakeh in north-east Syria on Thursday was of Iranian origin. The drone strike killed an American contractor and wounded five US troops and another American contractor.
The subsequent missile attack on Friday further raised tensions even as the White House sought to limit the prospect of escalating hostilities.
A White House national security spokesman said the US was not seeking conflict with Iran and that Tehran should not be involved in supporting attacks on American facilities.
Military groups remain a threat
The US strikes in Syria were aimed at protecting American personnel in the country, where Islamic State and Iran-backed militant groups remain a threat, Mr Kirby told CNN during an interview on Friday.
Earlier Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said in a statement that attacks on American troops would draw a response.
"No group will strike our troops with impunity," he said in a statement.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that monitors the war in Syria, said the US strikes killed 11 pro-Iranian fighters.
A rare American attack
Lethal attacks on American personnel in Syria are rare. In January, three drones attacked the US base at Tanf, in eastern Syria, injuring two Syrian fighters. While a little-known militia claimed the attack, analysts concluded it was likely a front group to give the IRGC plausible deniability.
Some 900 American troops are based in eastern Syria on a mission to prevent an Islamic State resurgence.
Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, who is supported by Iran and Russia, views the Americans as occupiers.
The Syrian leader is gradually being reintegrated into the Arab world after surviving a brutal 12-year civil war in which his attacks on Syrian civilians made him a pariah.
Saudi Arabia is close to reaching an agreement with Syria to reopen its embassy in Damascus for the first time in a decade, it was reported on Thursday.
Russia mediated the Saudi-Syria talks, The Wall Street Journal reported, in another sign of diminished US influence in the region after Beijing brokered a recent agreement between Saudi and Iran to restore ties.