The Pentagon announced on Sunday night that it launched another round of airstrikes in eastern Syria, targeting facilities “used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups,” referring to the Shia militias that operate in the region.
The strikes mark the third known round of US airstrikes in eastern Syria since US troops in the region have come under a spate of attacks due to President Biden’s full-throated support of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza. The Pentagon said Saturday that US bases have been targeted 48 times since October 17, leaving 56 American troops injured.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the airstrikes launched on Sunday specifically targeted “a training facility and a safe house near the cities of Abu Kamal and Mayadin,” which are both located in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor province.
The last round of US airstrikes in eastern Syria took place on November 8, and before that was October 27. One purpose of the strikes was to “deter” further attacks, but US officials have acknowledged that strategy has failed, as the Shia militias are not backing down.
An umbrella group known as the Islamic Resistance of Iraq has taken credit for many of the attacks on US troops, and leaders of some of the Shia militias have vowed they won’t stop until there’s a durable ceasefire in Gaza.
The US airstrikes on alleged IRGC sites also risk a major escalation with Iran if any Iranian personnel are killed. Iran has denied it is involved in the attacks on US forces in the region. The US says Tehran bears ultimate responsibility since it supports many of the Shia militias, but the Pentagon has previously acknowledged it has no evidence Iran is directing the operations.