One such Iran-backed group is the Baqir Brigade which is operating on Syrian territory. It recently announced on social media that it would start attacking US troops. In a Facebook post on 6th April, it said: “We in the Baqir Brigade leadership announce the good news of the launch of military and jihadi operations against the U.S. occupier and all those affiliated with it in Syria.”
The threat may be precipitated by the recent airstrike.
Threats against the United States personnel on the ground are nothing new. Indeed, the anti-American stance is well-established. However, experts predict that the threat is worrying because it is not something that such a group decides by itself – it will have been dictated by Iran. Many say that the threat is not just talk – it is more of an announcement that will be followed by action.
The airstrikes targeted areas where it is believed chemical weapons are stored or produced and the US-led strike involving the United Kingdom and France was intended to deter further use of chemical weapons.
The Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah have responded to the airstrikes saying that it will “complicate” the political situation in Syria and it will “inflame international relations”.
Furthermore, with the Islamic State (ISIS) currently in retreat and the anti-regime rebels in the position of losing ground, the groups supported by Iran have less to focus on, so turning to the American troops is not unexpected. Indeed, many have said that it is only a matter of time.
Once again, we can look back to previous conflicts to estimate how Iran will react. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) led its Shiite militias into targeting American troops. The militias fired mortars into US bases and targeted patrols with roadside bombs.
There are currently around 2,000 US military personnel in the northern part of Syria as well as some French and British personnel. Those in very remote areas will be most at risk. At the end of last month, it was reported that two soldiers – one British and one American – were killed by a roadside bomb that hit their vehicle.
Iran, on the other hand, has tens of thousands of fighters and the Western forces are simply vulnerable because of their much lower numbers. Further aggravating the situation is Iran’s extreme desperation. It is in a very vulnerable situation at home because of the widespread discontent. The people of Iran took to the streets at the end of December to voice their discontent with the regime’s corruption and have called for regime change.
The people are supported by the popular opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and US President Donald Trump sent a message of support to the people on social media. It is only time before the regime in Iran falls and the sooner the better. Once it is no longer in place, a major source of conflict will have been removed from the equation.