Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress on Wednesday that the US should be targeting Iran’s Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), following a drone attack in Syria that killed a US contractor.
“We do know that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard [Corps], and specifically their Quds Force … that group there is what we need to be targeting, and targeting them very harshly over time, and that’s exactly what we plan on doing,” Milley said, according to Al-Monitor.
The Pentagon said the drone that hit a US base in Syria last week was of “Iranian origin” but provided no evidence for the claim. President Biden ordered airstrikes against facilities the Pentagon said were used by groups affiliated with the IRGC, referring to Shia militias that operate in Syria.
According to Iranian media, Tehran denies that the US targeted facilities aligned with Iran and says the airstrikes hit a “rural development center and a grain center.” The Pentagon later claimed the strikes targeted “two IRGC-Quds Force targets” and estimated at least eight militants were killed in the airstrikes, but said they weren’t Iranian. Other unconfirmed reports put the death toll at 19.
If the US starts targeting Iran’s Quds Force directly, as Milley is suggesting, it could spark a full-blown war with Iran. The US and Iran were brought to the brink of conflict in January 2020 when the Trump administration launched a drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was the commander of the Quds Force at the time.
The US occupation of eastern Syria always risks sparking a wider war as US bases frequently come under attack. According to the Pentagon, since January 2021, there have been about 80 attacks on US troops in Syria.
The Pentagon claims all of these attacks were “Iran-backed” but never provides evidence for the assertion. Many of the Shia militias operate independently of Tehran, and other groups in Syria would have an interest in attacking US forces, including ISIS, which is an enemy of both the US and Iran and would benefit from stoking a conflict between them.