US forces in Syria and Iraq on ‘high alert’ for attacks by Iran-backed groups

Centcom general says Washington is ready to 'mitigate threats across the region'

US forces patrol the countryside in the north-eastern Hassakeh province of Syria, near the Turkish border. AFP
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US troops in Iraq and Syria are on “high alert” for attacks by Iran-backed groups, a senior US commander said on Thursday.

US President Joe Biden authorised military strikes on Tuesday against bases the Defence Department said were being used by Iran-aligned groups to attack the US-led coalition in Syria.

The strikes in oil-rich Deir Ezzor province "targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps".

The operation was carried out in response to an attack on August 15 on a compound used by coalition and US-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

A Central Command commander, Gen Michael Eric Corella, told Sky News Arabia that US forces in Iraq and Syria were “closely monitoring” the situation.

“We have the full range of capabilities to mitigate threats across the region, and have full confidence in protecting our forces and coalition partners from attacks,” he said.

His comments came after three members of the US military were injured on Wednesday in rocket attacks on two sites in Syria where American troops are housed, Centcom said.

It said rockets landed on its Conoco and Green Village sites in north-east Syria, which led to a US response by attack helicopters.

The American attack destroyed three cars and equipment that were used to launch some of the missiles, Centcom said.

Washington believes that at least three Iran-backed militants were killed.

The National contacted Centcom for comment about the matter.

Gen Corella said Washington did not "seek a conflict with Iran, but we will continue to take the necessary measures to protect and defend our people".

The exchange of strikes is latest in the escalation of events in Syria, where 900 American troops are stationed, the majority of them in the east.

US forces were sent to Syria during the administration of president Barack Obama’s campaign against ISIS, teaming up with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

But Iran-backed militias established a foothold in Syria while fighting in support of President Bashar Al Assad during the civil war that began in 2011.

An IRGC general "on a mission in Syria as a military adviser" was killed on Sunday, Iranian state media reported.

The reports did not say how he was killed and described him as a "defender of the sanctuary", a term used for those who work on behalf of Iran in Syria or Iraq.

Tehran has said it stationed its forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus and they are only there as advisers.

Updated: August 25, 2022, 8:00 AM