The United States has conducted airstrikes on Iran-backed groups in Syria after being targeted by an Iranian kamikaze drone strike.
On March 23, 2023, a coalition base in Hasakah, northeast Syria, was struck by a loitering munition. One US private contractor was killed, and five soldiers were injured in the attack.
The contractor and three of the service members had to be evacuated to military medical facilities in Iraq while the rest were treated on-site.
“The intelligence community assess the UAV to be of Iranian origin,” the US Department of Defense said in a statement.
The exact model of the weapon deployed was not specified. The use of Iranian-made kamikaze drones has become increasingly commonplace since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, with Shahed-136/131 drones being used by the latter to target Ukrainian cities.
Later the same day, the US Department of Defense announced that retaliatory airstrikes had been conducted on positions held by groups backed by Iran operating in Syria.
“At the direction of President Biden, I authorized U.S. Central Command forces to conduct precision airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. No further details on the airstrikes have been communicated.
Escalation of this type between the two countries has had devastating consequences in the past. On January 8, 2020, an Iranian missile defense system near Tehran shot down Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, killing 176 people. At the time, the Iran military was expecting retaliation from the United States after having launched 12 missiles on U.S. bases in Iraq.