An Israeli strike on the Syrian capital on Saturday destroyed a building used by the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, killing at least five Iranians, Syrian and Iranian state media reported. The Syrian army said the building in the tightly guarded western Damascus neighborhood of Mazzeh was entirely destroyed, adding that the Israeli air force fired the missiles while flying over Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Israeli military did not comment. A few hours later, an Israeli drone strike on a car near the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre killed two Hezbollah members who were in the vehicle and two people who were in a nearby orchard, an official with the group and Lebanon's state news agency said. One of those killed was Ali Hudruj, a local Hezbollah commander, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, without giving further details. Nour News, which is believed to be close to Iran’s intelligence apparatus, identified two of the dead in Damascus as Gen. Sadegh Omidzadeh, the intelligence deputy of the guard's expeditionary Quds Force in Syria, and his deputy, who goes by the nom de guerre Hajj Gholam. The guard later issued statements identifying the five dead as Hojjatollah Omidvar, Ali Aghazadeh, Hossein Mohammadi, Saeed Karimi and Mohammad Amin Samadi. It gave no ranks for them. The difference in information could not be immediately reconciled. An opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least six people — five Iranians and a Syrian — were killed in the missile attack that struck while officials from Iran-backed groups were holding a meeting. The Observatory's chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said three of the Iranians were commanders, adding that four other people are still missing under the rubble. The Telegram channel for Iranian state TV reported that Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi condemned the Israeli attack on Damascus, adding that “the Islamic Republic will not leave the crimes of the Zionist regime unanswered.” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani condemned the Israeli strike in a statement saying that “without any doubt, the blood of these high-ranking martyrs will not be wasted.” Iran also tried again to link Israel to the Islamic State group, something its leaders have been trying to do since a suicide bombing by the extremists in early January in Iran killed more than 90 people. Security forces deployed around the destroyed four-story building as ambulances and fire engines were seen in the area. A search for people trapped under the rubble was underway. Windows were also shattered in nearby buildings. A grocer near the scene of the strike said he heard five consecutive explosions at about 10:15 a.m., adding that he later witnessed the bodies of a man and a woman being taken away as well as three wounded people. “The shop shook. I stayed inside for a few seconds then went out and saw the smoke billowing from behind the mosque,” the man, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons, told The Associated Press. “What happened was terrifying. I collapsed,” said Khaled Mawed, who lives nearby. The strike came amid widening tensions in the region as Israel pushes ahead with its offensive in Gaza. Israel’s assault there, one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history, has killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, caused widespread destruction and uprooted over 80% of the territory’s 2.3 million people from their homes. Israel launched the offensive after an unprecedented cross-border attack into Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage. Roughly 130 hostages are believed by Israel to remain in Hamas captivity. The war has stoked tensions across the region, threatening to ignite other conflicts. Last month, an Israeli airstrike on a suburb of Damascus killed Iranian general Seyed Razi Mousavi, a longtime adviser of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in Syria. Israel has also targeted Palestinian and Lebanese operatives in Syria over the past years. Iranian and Syrian officials have long acknowledged Iran has advisers and military experts in Syria, but denied there were any ground troops. Thousands of fighters from Iran-backed groups took part in Syria's conflict that started in March 2011, helping tip the balance of power in favor of President Bashar Assad. Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of war-torn Syria in recent years. Israel rarely acknowledges its actions in Syria, but it has said that it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. Earlier this month, a strike said to be carried out by Israel killed top Hamas commander Saleh Arouri in Beirut. Over the past weeks, rockets have been fired from Syria into northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, adding to tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border and attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
In recent years, several earthquakes have devastated different parts of the globe. Earthquakes are caused by sudden movement along tectonic plates within the surface of earth. These movements release energy in the form of seismic waves that cause the earth's surface to shake. These geological events disrupt lives and economies, standing as stark reminders of the need for earthquake preparedness. Let's take a look at the top earthquake-prone countries across the world and understand their vulnerabilities. The World's 10 Most Earthquake-prone Countries Japan Japan occupies a precarious position in the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc characterized by fault lines and volcanic activity in the Pacific Ocean basin. This is the convergence of four tectonic plates: the Pacific, Philippine, Okhotsk, and Eurasian. The primary reason behind Japan's seismic vulnerability is the collision and subduction of these tectonic slabs. The Pacific Plate is subducting beneath the North American Plate, creating deep ocean trenches and mountain ranges. Read more Earthquake Safety Tips for Parents to Keep Children Safe The 2011 Tohoku earthquake, with a magnitude of 9.1, triggered a devastating tsunami, claiming around 19,759 lives. The 2016 Kumamoto earthquake, measuring magnitude 7, caused about 273 fatalities.
Seventy years after a CIA-orchestrated coup toppled Iran's prime minister, its legacy remains both contentious and complicated for the Islamic Republic as tensions stay high with the United States. While highlighted as a symbol of Western imperialism by Iran's theocracy, the coup unseating Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh — over America's fears about a possible tilt toward the Soviet Union and the loss of Iranian crude oil — appeared backed at the time by the country's leading Shiite clergy. But nowadays, hard-line Iranian state television airs repeated segments describing the coup as showing how America can't be trusted, while authorities bar the public from visiting Mossadegh's grave in a village outside of Tehran. Such conflicts are common in Iran, where "Death to America" can still be heard at Friday prayers in Tehran while many on its streets say they'd welcome a better relationship with the U.S. But as memories of the coup further fade away along with those alive during it, controlling which allegory Iranians see in it has grown more important for both the country's government and its people. Also read : Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are among 6 nations set to join the BRICS economic bloc "Maybe the U.S. did this out of fear of the emerging power of the Soviet Union, but it was like wishing for an earthquake to get rid of a bad neighbor," said Rana, a 24-year-old painter who like some others who spoke to The Associated Press gave only her first name for fear of reprisals. For Iranians, "the rancor has never melted." The August 1953 coup stemmed from U.S. fears over the Soviet Union increasingly wanting a piece of Iran as Communists agitated within the country. The ground had been laid partially by the British, who wanted to wrest back access to the Iranian oil industry, which had been nationalized earlier by Mossadegh. Though looking initially like it failed, the coup toppled Mossadegh and cemented the power of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It also lit the fuse for the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which saw the fatally ill shah flee Iran and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini usher in the theocracy that still governs the country. Today, several who spoke to the AP about the coup and possible relations with the U.S. put it in the context of Iran's ailing economy, which has been battered by years of sanctions after the collapse of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Lower tensions with the U.S. "will bring more money for my business," said Hossein, 47, who runs a canteen for cab drivers in southern Tehran. "Now taxi drivers spend less compared to the past years and it is because of these bad relations, sanctions." "I know about this bitter history but it should come to end sometime soon," added Majid Shamsi, who works as a parcel carrier in central Tehran. "Young people in Iran seek a better life and it cannot come as a result of enmity with" the U.S. Even during increasingly common protests by teachers, farmers and others in Iran, some of the regular chants include: "Our enemy is here; they lied to us (that the enemy) is the U.S." "Iran today should accept a deal with the U.S. like what it did to release dual nationals," added teacher Reza Seifi, 26. "I need it for my better future, for a better future for all." Also read : Abu Dhabi Chess:GM Ziaur Rahman beat FM Ebrahimi Herab Hamidreza of Iran But like with the exchanges with the U.S., there are limits to how far Iran's government will go in remembering Mossadegh. Last weekend, State television's English-language Press TV aired a segment with a journalist standing on Mossadegh Street in northern Tehran. However, over the last 20 years, police have restricted access to those wanting to visit his grave in his ancestral home in the village of Ahmadabad, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) northwest of Tehran. In the village, tall walls and a locked gate keep those wanting to pay their respects out, while officers question those who look like they don't live there. Some found other ways to mark the 70th anniversary of the coup. "I could not go to his grave to pay tribute but I have visited the graves of his supporters and allies like Hossein Fatemi," said Ebrahim Nazeri, 32, as he, his wife and two children stood at the graveside of Fatemi, Mossadegh's foreign minister who was executed after the coup. "He was a hero like Mossadegh." Another visitor to Fatemi's grave, teacher Ehsan Rahmani simply said that "the U.S. planted hatred in the hearts of Iranians" through the coup. For Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 1953 coup represents what he views as the continued threat from the U.S., whether that be from economic sanctions or the nationwide protests that have gripped Iran after the death last year of Mahsa Amini. On Thursday, Khamenei told members of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that Washington had planned to overthrow the country's theocracy through a coup like in 1953 through its military. Iran carried out mass executions and purges of its regular military after the revolution. Also read : Iranian FM says ties with Saudi Arabia "moving in right direction" "The enemies tried to undermine and paralyze the revolution by creating continuous crises," Khamenei said, according to a transcript on his official website. "They then plotted to put an end to the revolution with a measure similar to the coup that took place on August 19, (1953). However, the (Guard) thwarted it. This is the reason why the enemies have so much hatred and animosity towards the" Guard. The Guard's chief, Gen. Hossein Salami, in reply, vowed to "expel" American forces from the region. His remarks came amid a major American military buildup in the Persian Gulf, with the possibility of U.S. troops boarding and guarding commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of all oil shipments pass. However, some remain hopeful Iran could reach a détente with the U.S., as it recently did with Saudi Arabia. "I dream that the supreme leader allows talks and better relations with the U.S.," said Mohsen, 29, a furniture shop salesman in northern Tehran. "He allowed the restoration of ties with Saudi Arabia. He can allow the same for the U.S."
Iran and Saudi Arabia are among six nations invited Thursday (August 24, 2023) to join the BRICS bloc of developing economies. United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia are also set to join the bloc from 2024. The announcement was made at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose country is the current BRICS chair. Also read: China to support Bangladesh in joining BRICS: XI tells Hasina during talks BRICS is currently made up of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Those five members agreed at this week's summit to expand the bloc. It's the second time that BRICS has decided to expand. The bloc was formed in 2009 by Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa was added in 2010. The BRICS bloc represents around 40% of the world's population and contributes more than a quarter of global GDP. Three of the group's other leaders are attending the summit and were present alongside Ramaphosa for the announcement, including Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Also read: BRICS: China, Russia and other emerging economies turn to main summit agenda in South Africa Russian President Vladimir Putin did not travel to the summit after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him in March for the abduction of children from Ukraine. He has participated in the summit virtually, while Russia was represented at the announcement in Johannesburg by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said here on Thursday the relations between his country and Saudi Arabia are moving in the right direction and both sides will advance cooperation in various fields. Also read:Iranian Ambassador discusses potential of enhancing bilateral trade with Bangladesh Amir-Abdollahian made the remarks in a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud after their meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh. The Iranian top diplomat, who is on his first official visit to Saudi Arabia since the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations in a China-brokered deal in March, said his meeting with the Saudi minister was "fruitful." Also read:Neymar completes Saudi move to Al Hilal after 6 seasons with Paris Saint-Germain Iran is committed to implementing the agreements reached between the two countries in the security and economic fields, and will set up a technical and executive committee to promote their implementation, he said. Amir-Abdollahian confirmed that the Iranian president will visit Saudi Arabia soon. Read also:Bangladesh to benefit from new SAUDIA fleet expansion He also voiced his support for Saudi Arabia to host the World Expo 2030. While stressing the importance of cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Saudi minister said the restoration of diplomatic relations with Iran is the key to maintaining regional security. He said Saudi Arabia will maintain communication and coordination with Iran and promote new progress in bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect. The Saudi official also welcomed the Iranian president's planned visit to Saudi Arabia.
The United States and Iran reached a tentative agreement this week that will eventually see five detained Americans in Iran and an unknown number of Iranians imprisoned in the U.S. released from custody after billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets are transferred from banks in South Korea to Qatar. The complex deal — which came together after months of indirect negotiations between U.S. and Iranian officials — was announced on Thursday when Iran moved four of the five Americans from prison to house arrest. The fifth American had already been under house arrest. Details of the money transfer, the timing of its completion and the ultimate release of both the American and Iranian prisoners remain unclear. However, U.S. and Iranian officials say they believe the agreement could be complete by mid- to late-September. A look at what is known about the deal. WHAT’S IN IT? Under the tentative agreement, the U.S. has given its blessing to South Korea to convert frozen Iranian assets held there from the South Korean currency, the won, to euros. That money then would be sent to Qatar, a small, energy-rich nation on the Arabian Peninsula that has been a mediator in the talks. The amount from Seoul could be anywhere from $6 billion to $7 billion, depending on exchange rates. The cash represents money South Korea owed Iran — but had not yet paid — for oil purchased before the Trump administration imposed sanctions on such transactions in 2019. Read: Trump, 18 allies indicted in Georgia over 2020 election meddling, the 4th criminal case against him The U.S. maintains that, once in Qatar, the money will be held in restricted accounts and will only be able to be used for humanitarian goods, such as medicine and food. Those transactions are currently allowed under American sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic over its advancing nuclear program. Some in Iran have disputed the U.S. claim, saying that Tehran will have total control over the funds. Qatar has not commented publicly on how it will monitor the disbursement of the money. In exchange, Iran is to release the five Iranian-Americans held as prisoners in the country. Currently, they are under guard at a hotel in Tehran, according to a U.S.-based lawyer advocating for one of them. WHY WILL IT TAKE SO LONG? Iran does not want the frozen assets in South Korean won, which is less convertible than euros or U.S. dollars. U.S. officials say that while South Korea is on board with the transfer it is concerned that converting $6 or $7 billion in won into other currencies at once will adversely affect its exchange rate and economy. Thus, South Korea is proceeding slowly, converting smaller amounts of the frozen assets for the eventual transfer to the central bank in Qatar. In addition, as the money is transferred, it has to avoid touching the U.S. financial system where it could become subject to American sanctions. So a complicated and time-consuming series of transfers through third-country banks has been arranged. Read: As death toll from Maui fire reaches 89, authorities say effort to count the losses is just starting “We have worked extensively with the South Koreans on this and there’s no impediment to the movement of the account from South Korea to Qatar,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday. In Doha, Qatar’s Minister of State Mohammed Abdulaziz al-Khulaifi said, “What we have achieved in this agreement reflects the confidence of these parties in the State of Qatar as a neutral mediator and international partner in resolving international disputes by peaceful means.” He did not address how the money would be policed. WHO ARE THE DETAINED IRANIAN-AMERICANS? The identities of three of the five prisoners have been made public. It remains unclear who the other two are. The American government has described them as wanting to keep their identities private and Iran has not named them either. The three known are Siamak Namazi, who was detained in 2015 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on internationally criticized spying charges. Another is Emad Sharghi, a venture capitalist serving a 10-year sentence. The third is Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was arrested in 2018 and also received a 10-year sentence. Those advocating for their release describe them as wrongfully detained and innocent. Iran has used prisoners with Western ties as bargaining chips in negotiations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Read more: US military may put armed troops on commercial ships in Strait of Hormuz to stop Iran seizures WHY IS THIS DEAL HAPPENING NOW? For Iran, years of American sanctions following former U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers has crushed its already-anemic economy. Previous claims of progress in talks over the frozen assets have provided only short-term boosts to Iran’s hobbled rial currency. The release of that money, even if only disbursed under strict circumstances, could provide an economic boost. For the U.S., the administration of President Joe Biden has tried to get Iran back into the deal, which fell apart after Trump’s 2018 withdrawal. Last year, countries involved in the initial agreement offered Tehran what was described as their last, best roadmap to restore the accord. Iran did not accept it. Still, Iran hawks in Congress and outside critics of the 2015 nuclear deal have criticized the new arrangement. Former Vice President Mike Pence and the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jim Risch, as well as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have all compared the money transfer to paying a ransom and said the Biden administration is encouraging Iran to continue taking prisoners. Read more: Belgium, Iran conduct prisoner swap in Oman, freeing aid worker and diplomat convicted in bomb plot WILL THE U.S. RELEASE IRANIAN PRISONERS HELD IN AMERICA? On Friday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry made a point of bringing up those prisoners. American officials have declined to comment on who or how many Iranian prisoners might be released in a final agreement. But Iranian media in the past identified several prisoners with cases tied to violations of U.S. export laws and restrictions on doing business with Iran. Those alleged violations include the transfer of money through Venezuela and sales of dual-use equipment that the U.S. says could be used in Iran’s military and nuclear programs. DOES THIS MEAN IRAN-U.S. TENSIONS ARE EASING? No. Outside of the tensions over the nuclear deal and Iran’s atomic ambitions, a series of attacks and ship seizures in the Mideast have been attributed to Tehran since 2019. The Pentagon is considering a plan to put U.S. troops on board to guard commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of all oil shipments pass moving out of the Persian Gulf. A major deployment of U.S. sailors and Marines, alongside F-35s, F-16s and other aircraft, is also underway in the region. Meanwhile, Iran supplies Russia with the bomb-carrying drones Moscow uses to target sites in Ukraine amid its war on Kyiv. Read more: Iran unveils what it calls a hypersonic missile able to beat air defenses amid tensions with US
Iran hanged a man who was allegedly behind an attack that killed dozens of people at a military parade in the southern province of Khuzestan in 2018, state media reported on Saturday. The execution was carried out in Tehran after a top court upheld a death sentence for Farajollah Cha’ab in March, Iran's state TV reported. He was “the main person in the terrorist attack” at the parade in September 2018, authorities said, and was arrested by Iranian agents in 2020 after he left Sweden for Turkey. He is alleged to be the leader of a separatist group. Cha’ab, who holds Iranian and Swedish citizenship, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Turkey in November 2020. In September 2018, militants disguised as soldiers opened fire on an annual military parade in Ahvaz, the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan. At least 25 people were killed and 70 wounded, including a 4-year-old boy. Iran then claimed that Saudi Arabia and Israeli intelligence services supported what it says was an attack by the separatist group.
Iran's exiled crown prince is scheduled to come to Israel this week on a visit that reflects the warm ties his father once had with Israel and the current state of hostility between Israel and the Islamic Republic. Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah to rule Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, said Sunday that he will be delivering “a message of friendship from the Iranian people.” He is set to participate in Israel's annual Holocaust memorial ceremony on Monday night, said Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, who will host him. He is also set to visit a desalination plant, see the Western Wall and meet representatives of the local Bahai community and Israeli Jews of Iranian descent, she said. Also Read: In first, Iran's president addresses Palestinians in Gaza Gamliel praised the “brave decision” by Pahlavi to make what she said would be his first visit to Israel. “The crown prince symbolizes a leadership different from that of the ayatollah regime, and leads values of peace and tolerance, in contrast to the extremists who rule Iran,” she said. Pahlavi left Iran at age 17 for military flight school in the U.S., just before his cancer-stricken father Mohammad Reza Pahlavi abandoned the throne for exile. The revolution followed, with the creation of the Islamic Republic, the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the sweeping away of the last vestiges of the American-backed monarchy. Pahlavi, who still resides in the U.S., has called for a peaceful revolution that would replace clerical rule with a parliamentary monarchy, enshrine human rights and modernize its state-run economy. Whether he can galvanize support for a return to power is unknown. His father ruled lavishly and repressively and benefitted from a CIA-supported coup in 1953. The late shah also had close diplomatic and military ties with Israel. That ended in 1979, when the Iranian revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, declared Israel an “enemy of Islam” and cut all ties. Today, the countries are arch-enemies. Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country's calls for Israel's destruction, its support of hostile militant groups on Israel's borders and its nuclear program. Iran denies accusations by Israel and its western allies that it is pursuing a nuclear bomb. “I want the people of Israel to know that the Islamic Republic does not represent the Iranian people. The ancient bond between our people can be rekindled for the benefit of both nations,” Pahlavi said on Twitter.
Iran-backed fighters were on alert in eastern Syria on Saturday, a day afte r U.S. forces launched retaliatory airstrikes on sites in the war-torn country, opposition activists said. The airstrikes came after a suspected Iran-made drone killed a U.S. contractor and wounded six other Americans on Thursday. The situation was calm following a day in which rockets were fired at bases housing U.S. troops in eastern Syria. The rockets came after U.S. airstrikes on three different areas in Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which borders Iraq, opposition activists said. While it’s not the first time the U.S. and Iran have traded strikes in Syria, the attack and the U.S. response threaten to upend recent efforts to deescalate tensions across the wider Middle East, whose rival powers have made steps toward détente in recent days after years of turmoil. “The calm continues as Iran-backed militiamen are on alert out of concern of possible new airstrikes,” said Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor. Also Read: Suspected Iran drone kills US worker in Syria; US retaliates President Joe Biden said Friday that 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 Thursday by a suspected Iran-made drone that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded five American servicemembers and a U.S. contractor. “The United States does not, does not seek conflict with Iran,” Biden said in Ottawa, Canada, where he was on a state visit. 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.” Activists said the U.S. bombing killed at least four people. A statement issued late Friday by the Iranian Consultative Center in Syria warned the U.S. not to carry out further strikes in Syria. Otherwise, “we will have to retaliate." It warned that "it will not be a simple revenge.” Also Read: Saudi Arabia, Syria may restore ties as Mideast reshuffles The center, which speaks on behalf of Tehran in Syria, said the U.S. airstrikes targeted places used to store food products and other service centers in Deir el-Zour. It said the strike killed seven people and wounded seven others without giving the nationalities of the dead. An official with an Iran-backed group in Iraq said the strikes killed seven Iranians. The Observatory raised the death toll from the U.S. strikes to 19, saying they were killed in three locations, including an arms depot in the Harabesh neighborhood in the city of Deir el-Zour, and two military posts near the towns of Mayadeen and Boukamal. Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes. According to U.S. officials, two simultaneous attacks were launched at U.S. forces in Syria late Friday. Officials said that based on preliminary information, there was a rocket attack on the Conoco plant, where U.S. troops are stationed, and one U.S. service member was wounded but is in stable condition. At about the same time, several drones were launched at Green Village, in Deir el-Zour province where U.S. troops are also based. One official said all but one of the drones were shot down, and there were no U.S. injuries there. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been suspected of carrying out attacks with bomb-carrying drones across the wider Middle East. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the American intelligence community had determined the drone in Thursday’s attack was of Iranian origin, but offered no other immediate evidence to support the claim. The drone hit a coalition base in the northeast Syrian city of Hasakeh. Iran relies on a network of proxy forces throughout the Mideast to counter the U.S. and Israel, its arch regional enemy. The U.S. has had forces in northeast Syria since 2015, when they deployed as part of the fight against the Islamic State group, and maintains some 900 troops there, working with Kurdish-led forces that control around a third of Syria. The exchange of strikes came as Saudi Arabia and Iran have been working toward reopening embassies in each other’s countries. The kingdom also acknowledged efforts to reopen a Saudi embassy in Syria, whose embattled President Bashar Assad has been backed by Iran in his country’s long war. According to officials, Iran has launched 80 attacks against U.S. forces and locations in Iraq and Syria since January 2021. The vast majority of those have been in Syria. The U.S. under Biden has struck Syria previously over tensions with Iran — in February and June of 2021, as well as August 2022. Syria’s conflict that began in 2011 has left nearly half a million people dead.
A strike Thursday by a suspected Iranian-made drone killed a U.S. contractor and wounded five American troops and another contractor in northeast Syria, the Pentagon said. American forces said they retaliated soon after with “precision airstrikes” in Syria targeting facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard, with activist groups saying they killed at least four people. The attack and the U.S. response threaten to upend recent efforts to deescalate tensions across the wider Middle East, whose rival powers have made steps toward détente in recent days after years of turmoil. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the American intelligence community had determined the drone was of Iranian origin, but offered no other immediate evidence to support the claim. “The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria" by groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, Austin said. Iran relies on a network of proxy forces through the Mideast to counter the U.S. and Israel, its arch regional enemy. The Pentagon said two of the wounded service members were treated on-site, while three others and the injured contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq. Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir el-Zour, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields. Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes. Iran and Syria did not immediately acknowledge the strikes, nor did their officials at the United Nations in New York respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press. The activist group Deir Ezzor 24 put the death toll from the American strikes at four people. Deir Ezzor 24, which covers news in Deir el-Zour province, said the strikes hit the city of Deir el-Zour as well as militiamen posts near Mayadeen and Boukamal. It said the strikes also wounded people, including Iraqis. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported that the American strikes killed six Iranian-backed fighters at an arms depot in the Harabesh neighborhood in the city of Deir el-Zour. The Observatory, which relies on a network of local contacts in Syria, said U.S. bombing at a post near the town of Mayadeen killed two fighters. A separate American strike hit a military post near the town of Boukamal along the border with Iraq, killing another three fighters, the Observatory said. The AP could not immediately independently confirm the activist reports. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been suspected of carrying out attacks with bomb-carrying drones across the wider Middle East. In recent months, Russia has begun using Iranian drones in its attacks on sites across Ukraine as part of its war on Kyiv. Iran has issued a series of conflicting denials about its drones being used in the war, though Western nations and experts have tied components in the drones back to Tehran. The exchange of strikes came as Saudi Arabia and Iran have been working toward reopening embassies in each other’s countries. The kingdom also acknowledged efforts to reopen a Saudi embassy in Syria, whose embattled President Bashar Assad has been backed by Iran in his country’s long war. U.S. Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of the American military’s Central Command, warned that American forces could carry out additional strikes if needed. “We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks,” Kurilla said in a statement. Addressing the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Kurilla warned lawmakers that the “Iran of today is exponentially more militarily capable than it was even five years ago.” He pointed to Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and bomb-carrying drones. Kurilla also alleged that Iran had launched some 78 attacks on U.S. positions in Syria since January 2021. “What Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies,” Kurilla said. Diplomacy to deescalate the crisis appeared to begin immediately around the strikes. Qatar’s state-run news agency reported a call between its foreign minister and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser. Doha has been an interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. recently amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program. Qatar’s foreign minister also spoke around the same time with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. Austin said he authorized the retaliatory strikes at the direction of President Joe Biden. “As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.” The U.S. under Biden has struck Syria previously over tensions with Iran. In February and June of 2021, as well as August 2022, Biden launched attacks there. U.S. forces entered Syria in 2015, backing allied forces in their fight against the Islamic State group. The U.S. still maintains the base near Hasakah in northeast Syria where Thursday's drone strike happened. There are roughly 900 U.S. troops, and even more contractors, in Syria, including in the north and farther south and east. Since the U.S. drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in 2020, Iran has sought “to make life difficult for U.S. forces stationed east of the Euphrates,” said Hamidreza Azizi, an expert with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Iran increased its support for local proxies in Deir el-Zour while trying to ally with the tribal forces in the area,” Azizi wrote in a recent analysis. “Due to the geographical proximity, Iraqi groups also intensified their activities in the border strip with Syria and in the Deir el-Zour province.” The strikes come during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Syria’s war began with the 2011 Arab Spring protests that roiled the wider Middle East and toppled governments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. It later morphed into a regional proxy conflict that has seen Russia and Iran back Assad. The United Nations estimates over 300,000 civilians have been killed in the war. Those figures do not include soldiers and insurgents killed in the conflict; their numbers are believed to be in the tens of thousands.