The U.S. Carries Out a “Self-Defense Strike” in Syria: Here’s What We Know

Lloyd Austin

Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… on Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced that the United States carried out a “self-defense strike” in Eastern Syria. In our analysis this week, we’ll be looking 1) at the reasons for the strike, and what the target had been, 2) U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comments on the incident, and 3) the ongoing incidents that include drone attacks in the weeks preceding Wednesday’s strike.

Quote of the Week

“We will continue to make clear to any potential foe the folly of aggression against the United States—at any time or any place, in any theater or any domain.” 

– U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

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That all behind us, it’s time to look at the DoD’s recent official statements regarding a U.S. strike that occurred earlier this week in Syria, why it occurred, what it means, and what led up to the incident.

U.S. Strikes Carries out Self-Defense Strike Syria

Yesterday it was revealed that the United States had carried out what the DoD characterized as a “self-defense strike” in Eastern Syria.

The strike was reportedly made on a weapons storage facility in the country, which was being utilized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (Credit: U.S. Secretary of Defense).

The strike, which occurred earlier on Wednesday, was directed by President Joe Biden, according to a statement released that afternoon by the Pentagon attributed to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

U.S. F-15s Deployed

“This strike was conducted by two U.S. F-15s against a weapons storage facility,” Austin said yesterday.

“This precision self-defense strike is a response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC-Quds Force affiliates,” Austin added, emphasizing that President Biden “has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel,” and that the strike had been meant to convey “that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”

U.S. Air Force F-15C
A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle during flight oer California (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roy Santana/Released)..

Austin also said the U.S. remains “fully prepared” for further actions, which could include additional strikes on strategic targets for self-defense purposes, if the U.S. deems such actions necessary.

The Pentagon has said that U.S. personnel will continue operations in the region, which will be aimed at conducting “counter-ISIS missions in Iraq and Syria.”

Heated Exchanges

According to a senior defense official who spoke on background with NBC News, Wednesday’s strike targeted a weapons facility in Maysulun, Syria, although the official refrained from further comment on whether any casualties had resulted from the strike.

The official did emphasize that the Pentagon was confident there had been no civilians injured or killed during the strike.

Wednesday’s strike follows a similar series of operations late last month, as several Syrian targets that were determined to have been linked to Iran were also targeted, in the aftermath of attacks carried out against U.S. personnel in both Syria and Iraq, all of which were carried out by militia groups backed by Iran. Several dozen U.S. service members sustained injuries during the attacks.

drone attacks
(Credit: Cpl. C. R. Rye/U.S. Marine Corps)

Several of the attacks involved drones, and occurred at al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq on October 17 and at al-Tanf military base in Syria the following day.

“In western Iraq, U.S. forces engaged two drones, destroying one and damaging the second, resulting in minor injuries to Coalition forces,” read a statement issued by U.S. Central Command following the incidents.

“Separately in northern Iraq, U.S. forces engaged and destroyed a drone, resulting in no injuries or damage.  We are continuing to assess the impacts to operations.”

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Austin said the U.S. is ready “to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities.”

“We urge against any escalation,” Austin said.

That concludes this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] thedebrief [dot] org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.

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