Iranian missiles came close to US troops in Syria; Pentagon not pleased

Iranian missiles came close to US troops in Syria; Pentagon not pleased

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Coalition Soldiers provide security in a recently liberated area near Abu Kamal, Syria, August 22, 2018 (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christian Simmons)

WASHINGTON — Iranian missiles fired into eastern Syria early Monday came within three miles of U.S. troops and even closer to other elements of the anti-ISIS coalition, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

“We don’t need anybody else firing into our region,” Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesperson for U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria, told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday. “Anytime you are firing into uncoordinated air space, it’s a threat.”

Ryan said U.S. troops were never in danger and that U.S. and coalition partners “are still assessing” the impact of the Iranian strike. He spoke to Pentagon reporters via a telephone link from Baghdad.

Earlier this week, Iran sent six ballistic missiles into the Abu Kamal district in Syria. Iran state media said the strike was aimed at terrorists who were involved in the Sept. 22 attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz.

The Abu Kamal area is one of the last ISIS strongholds in eastern Syria and is the focus of an ongoing offensive by U.S. led coalition forces.

Ryan said the Iranians did not give advance warning of the attack to the coalition. He did not know if they gave notice to the Russians, who join Tehran in supporting the Assad government.

U.S. and Russian military officials maintain a “deconfliction line” to advise each side in advance of any military action to avoid accidental clashes or gunplay. Ryan told reporters that the deconfliction line was not used prior to the Iranian strike.

Ryan said the final phase to eliminate ISIS from Abu Kamal and one other urban area is in week three. He said Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have liberated two smaller towns “as they steadily push north” in the face of mortar and other fierce attacks.

He said that between 1,000 and 2,000 ISIS fighters remain but that “it’s not the numbers we are about about but about the capability,” he said. “The SDF is denying them terrain and killing the last of them.”

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