Iran Sourced Drones That Attacked U.S. Base in Syria, Launched From Elsewhere: Officials

The U.S. believes that Iran sourced and facilitated the use of drones that attacked a military base in Syria last week where American troops are stationed, according to U.S. officials, the Associated Press reported.

While the drones were Iranian and it appears that the country aided their use against the base, officials said they were not launched from Iran, according to the AP. U.S. and coalition troops are stationed at al-Tanf in southern Syria to help train Syrian forces looking to counter militants from the Islamic State group.

Officials said that as many as five drones with explosive charges hit the U.S. side of al-Tanf, as well as the side of the base where Syrian opposition forces are located. No deaths or injuries were reported as a result of the attack.

In a news conference Monday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described the incident as a "complex, coordinated and deliberate attack," adding that the U.S. has contended with similar strikes from the Iran-backed Shia militia groups. But he declined to provide specific details on the weapons used in the attack, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Drone Attack
U.S. Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby called the drone attack on a U.S. military base in Syria last week a “complex, coordinated and deliberate attack.” Officials say the drones were sourced by Iran. Above, Kirby participates in a news briefing at the Pentagon August 13, in Arlington, Virginia. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The al-Tanf base is also located on a road serving as a vital link for Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon and Israel.

During the news conference, Kirby also declined to say if troops were warned ahead of time or whether the U.S. intends to make a military response.

"The protection and security of our troops overseas remains a paramount concern for the secretary," Kirby said, referring to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, "and that if there is to be a response, it will be at a time and a place and a manner of our choosing, and we certainly won't get ahead of those kinds of decisions."

Pro-Iran media outlets have been saying that the attack on Tanf was carried out by "Syria's allies"—an apparent reference to Iran-backed groups—in retaliation for an attack days earlier near the historic Syrian town of Palmyra. Israel has been blamed for the attack, but U.S. officials say America was not involved with it.

"You can consider that the strike on Tanf was an implementation" of previous promises by Syrian allies to retaliate for Palmyra, according to an official with the so-called Axis of Resistance, an anti-Western political-military alliance that includes Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other groups fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.

The al-Tanf attack came in a period of rising tensions with Iran. The Biden administration this week said international diplomatic efforts to get Iran back into negotiations to return to a 2015 nuclear deal were at a "critical place" and that patience is wearing thin.

The last major Iranian attack on U.S. forces was in January 2020, when Tehran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles on al-Asad air base in Iraq. U.S. and coalition troops were warned of the incoming missiles and were able to take cover, but more than 100 U.S. service members received traumatic brain injuries as a result of the blasts.

The Iran attack was in response to the U.S. drone strike earlier that month near the Baghdad airport that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Two months after the al-Asad assault, U.S. fighter jets struck five sites in retaliation, targeting Iranian-backed Shiite militia members believed responsible for the January rocket attack.

al-Tanf Military Base
Officials said that as many as five drones with explosive charges hit the U.S. side of al-Tanf. Above, the al-Tanf military outpost is seen in southern Syria on October 22, 2018. Lolita Baldor/AP Photo