As Russia And The US Clash, Iran Ramps Up Involvement In The Syrian Civil War

Photo by Muhammed Yusuf/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iran lobbed several missiles at ISIS targets in eastern Syria on June 18, the first time the regime has fired rockets at another country in three decades and a significant escalation of its military involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war, CNN reports.

On June 18, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that it had deployed several “ground-to-ground, mid-range missiles” from a base in western Iran at ISIS forces in the Deir Ezzor region, according to CNN. The strikes were carried out in retaliation for twin ISIS attacks in Tehran that killed at least 16 people at Iran’s Parliament and a shrine dedicated to the country’s revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Khomeini.

The strikes came amid two other significant “firsts” in the Syrian civil war: the downing of a Syrian regime warplane by a U.S. fighter jet, and a vow from the Russian government to treat any coalition aircraft in Syria as an enemy target.

All three incidents indicate that the brutal conflict is on the verge of entering a new phase that could pit world powers against each other in direct confrontation at the risk of losing momentum in the fight against their mutual enemy of ISIS.

Iran and Russia are the two chief allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces are fighting a war against myriad anti-government and jihadist militant groups, including ISIS. The terrorist group is primarily based in the Syrian city of Raqqa, currently under siege by coalition-backed Kurdish forces, who, like most of the militias supported by the U.S.-led coalition as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, are considered an enemy of the regime.   

Until now, Iran’s support for the Assad regime has been limited to providing money, military advisers, volunteers, and the mass deployment of Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters to Syria. But as the U.S. ramps up operations in the country and wards off attacks against regional allies by pro-regime forces, the stakes are becoming much higher.

“The selection of targets is interesting,” Lt. Col (ret) Rick Francona, a CNN military analyst, said of Iran’s missile strikes. “They say they are firing at the same people who planned the attacks in Tehran but it also bolsters the Syrian army effort right now.”   

Iran and Syria are determined to establish a “Shiite” supply corridor between Iran and Syria that would run directly through territory on the Iraq-Syria border that is currently controlled by coalition forces based out of the At Tanf garrison. The coalition has conducted several airstrikes in the past month in response to incursions into the deconfliction zone around At Tanf, destroying militia convoys, technicals, and artillery weapons.       

The Syrian civil war began in the spring of 2011 after government security forces brutally cracked down on a protest movement calling for the removal of Assad. It has since become a proxy war divided along sectarian lines, with Shiite-majority Iran on one side and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, on the other. Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of supporting ISIS in the Tehran attacks.

“The Coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” An OIR spokesman reiterated in a statement after a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Air Force SU-22 . “The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”


Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less