November 30, 2023

Iran-backed groups in Syria have carried out numerous attacks on US forces since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. These attacks targeted the US garrison at Tanf near the Iraq-Jordan border, as well as facilities where US forces are stationed in the middle Euphrates River valley, including Conoco and Omar field and other sites near Deir Ezzor. The attacks are not having the expected impact due to the use of “handmade” weapons rather than well-armed ones. According to an assessment in pro-Iran Al-Mayadeen media, the groups have targeted various places in Syria where US forces are present, which constitutes about two-thirds of the American bases in the country. They aim to push the Americans to withdraw completely from the areas they occupy by escalating resistance and targeting American ground movements with mines and explosive devices. Iran is apparently pushing these groups to shift tactics from using rockets to using IEDs on roadsides, reflecting a potential increase in attacks on US forces in Syria. This shift in tactics was already indicated in reports from June, which mentioned Iran’s desire for militias in Syria to use more powerful roadside bombs. The Iranian IRGC participated in the testing of explosives capable of slicing through a tank’s armored plating, signaling an attempt to improve the use of explosives over the last year. However, despite Iran’s support, these groups have been unable to achieve much, reflecting poorly on the Iranian-backed militias in Syria. Many of these groups are composed of poor people recruited from Afghanistan and Pakistan, known as Fatemiyoun, and lack the capability to project Iran’s power as desired.