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Iran-backed fighters on high alert in east Syria after US retaliatory airstrikes I Story so far

While it’s not the first time the US and Iran have traded strikes in Syria, the attack and the US response threaten to upend recent efforts to de-escalate tensions across the wider Middle East, whose rival powers have made steps toward detente in recent days after years of turmoil.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Beirut Published on: March 26, 2023 15:55 IST
US warplanes attacked several Syrian regions on Friday.
Image Source : AP US warplanes attacked several Syrian regions on Friday.

US-Iraq tension: A day after US forces launched retaliatory airstrikes on sites in the war-torn country, Iran-backed fighters were on alert in eastern Syria. The airstrikes came after a suspected Iran-made drone killed a US contractor and wounded six other Americans on Thursday.

The situation was calm following a day in which rockets were fired at bases housing US troops in eastern Syria. The rockets came after U.S. airstrikes on three different areas in Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which borders Iraq, opposition activists said.

While it’s not the first time the US and Iran have traded strikes in Syria, the attack and the US response threaten to upend recent efforts to deescalate tensions across the wider Middle East, whose rival powers have made steps toward detente in recent days after years of turmoil.

In the first Syrian comment since the attacks occurred, the foreign ministry condemned the US strikes saying they are “a flagrant violation of Syria’s sovereignty.” The ministry added in a statement that Damascus aims to end “American occupation” and spread government control over all parts of the country. 

“The calm continues as Iran-backed militiamen are on alert out of concern of possible new airstrikes,” said Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor.

Omar Abu Layla, an activist from Deir el-Zour who is currently in the U.S. and runs a group that monitors developments in east Syria, said Iran-backed fighters have evacuated some of their posts and moved into trenches in case of any more American strikes. “They are in a state of alert,” he said.

"US would respond forcefully"

President Joe Biden said Friday that the US would respond “forcefully” to protect its personnel after U.S. forces retaliated with airstrikes on sites in Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The strikes followed an attack Thursday by a suspected Iran-made drone that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded five American servicemembers and a U.S. contractor.

“The United States does not, does not seek conflict with Iran,” Biden said in Ottawa, Canada, where he was on a state visit. But he said Iran and its proxies should be prepared for the U.S. “to act forcefully to protect our people. That’s exactly what happened last night.” Activists said the U.S. bombing killed at least four people.

In Iran, domestic media outlets quoted a spokesman for the nation’s Supreme National Security Council, Keivan Khosravi, as saying that Tehran would immediately respond to any U.S. attack on Iranian bases in Syria.

“Any excuses-seeking attitude for attack on bases that are established at the request of the Syrian government, will immediately face an answer,” Khosravi was quoted as saying. Khosravi rejected US charges that Iran is behind attacks on American bases in Syria, suggesting they are attacks against “illegal occupation of part of Syria.” A statement issued late Friday by the Iranian Consultative Center in Syria warned the U.S. not to carry out further strikes in Syria. Otherwise, “we will have to retaliate.” It warned that “it will not be a simple revenge.” 

(With inputs from AP)

Also Read: Iran should be prepared for US to act forcefully...: says Biden after suspected Iranian-linked attack in Syria

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