Iran conducted a complex and coordinated attack on US forces in Syria last week. It used up to five armed drones to strike at the Tanf garrison, a lonely US outpost in Syria near the Jordanian and Iraqi border.
The assessment by the US is that Iran was behind this attack. It is the latest of numerous drone attacks on American forces in the region this year. Iranian-backed groups in Iraq have used drones to target US forces at Erbil’s airport and other locations.
The attacks are also part of the rising Iranian drone threat across the region. This means the attack on Tanf is a message not just for the US, but also for Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries facing Iran’s drones.
The Tanf attack was a “complex, coordinated and deliberate attack,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. But Washington didn’t go into more specifics, reports said.
US knowledge about the planning of the attack appears to be more than is being reported in the media. This is because reports say the US was “tipped off” to the attack and that around 200 troops were evacuated on a C-130 transport aircraft, Fox News reported.
It is not the first time the US had some knowledge that an attack was coming and prepared for it. In January 2020, after the US killed Iranian IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, it received hours of warning about an Iranian ballistic-missile attack on Al Asad air base in Iraq. Troops were sent to bunkers, and sensitive equipment was moved away.
On the night of January 7, “not a single fighter jet or helicopter remained out in the open,” Reuters reported. The attack came after midnight. America similarly avoided casualties at Tanf. But the advance knowledge raises questions about why the US didn’t try to preempt the attack or interdict it before it happened.
It also raises questions about lack of air defenses for US facilities. Reports indicate that US forces tried out counter-UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) technology called Smart Shooter in June 2020, a technology used for countering small drones. For larger drones, one needs a system more like Israel’s Iron Dome. The US has two Iron Dome batteries, but they are based in Guam, according to reports.
WHAT THIS tells us is that America had some prior knowledge about Iranian threats to Tanf. It’s not the first time the outpost has been threatened. An Iranian drone also threatened the area in 2017, and the US shot it down. Tanf has a 55-km. “deconfliction” zone around it, meaning the US reserves the right to defend the area up to that distance away. That’s a big radius and keeps any prying eyes away. READ MORE
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