Iran is planning to escalate its attacks against American troops in Syria, part of a larger plan backed by Russia to oust the U.S. from the region, according to leaked classified documents and intelligence officials who spoke with the Washington Post.
As of February, 2021, there are around 900 U.S. soldiers operating in Syria, and hundreds more contractors, working with Kurdish fighters to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State, according to the Department of Defense.
The report comes two months after six American service members suffered traumatic brain injuries in separate attacks by Iranian-backed militants in Syria.
“There has been a sea change in their risk-acceptance in killing Americans in Syria,” Michael Knights, an expert on Iranian-backed militia groups and a founder of the website Militia Spotlight, told the Post. “This will definitely kill people. And they’re thinking very hard about how to do it.”
According to the Post, Iran and its allies are arming militants in Syria and building and training forces to use bombs intended to target U.S. military vehicles. The documents show Russian, Iranian and Syrian officials met last year to agree on a “coordination center.”
President Joe Biden in late March said the U.S. would respond “forcefully” to protect its personnel after U.S. forces retaliated with airstrikes on sites in Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The strikes followed an attack by a suspected Iran-made drone that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded five American servicemembers and another U.S. contractor.
“The United States does not, does not seek conflict with Iran,” Biden said at the time. But he said Iran and its proxies should be prepared for the U.S. “to act forcefully to protect our people. That’s exactly what happened last night.”
In Iran, domestic media outlets quoted a spokesman for the nation’s Supreme National Security Council, Keivan Khosravi, as saying that Tehran would immediately respond to any U.S. attack on Iranian bases in Syria.