Updated Aug 24, 2022 - World

Pentagon vows to "push back" against Iran after clashes in Syria

 U.S. Army soldiers prepare to go out on patrol from a remote combat outpost on May 25, 2021 in northeastern Syria.

U.S. Army soldiers prepare to go out on patrol from a remote combat outpost in May 2021 in northeastern Syria. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Three American service members were injured in Syria in two separate rocket attacks by suspected Iran-backed militants on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

The big picture: The latest in a series of attacks on American personnel to be linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard came hours after the U.S. military said it had launched airstrikes against Iranian-backed groups in eastern Syria.

  • The U.S. military strikes were in response to an attack against American personnel by Iran-backed groups on Aug. 15, according to CENTCOM. Tehran publicly denied any involvement with the groups on Wednesday.
  • The attacks occurred as American, European and Iranian officials hold negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that then-President Trump withdrew the U.S. from — and the Pentagon vowed Wednesday to push back against threats from militias backed by Tehran, regardless of those talks.

Details: The first of the attacks saw several rockets land inside the perimeter of Mission Support Site Conoco in northeast Syria about 7:20pm, per a U.S. Central Command statement.

  • Additional rockets "landed in the vicinity of Mission Support Site Green Village" soon after, according to CENTCOM.
  • "One U.S. service member in Mission Support Site Conoco was treated for a minor injury and has been returned to duty," the statement noted.  "Two others are under evaluation for minor injuries."
  • U.S. forces used attack helicopters to respond to the attack, "destroying three vehicles and equipment used to launch some of the rockets," CENTCOM said. "Initial assessments indicate that two or three suspected Iran-backed militants conducting one of the attacks were killed during the U.S. response."

What they're saying: Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said during a briefing on Wednesday that the U.S. military strikes in eastern Syria illustrated "our commitment to push back against Iran's support for terrorism, militancy, and the threats that they engage in against our people in the region or elsewhere, are not linked to wherever we end up on the nuclear deal." 

  • "We're not going to tolerate attacks by Iran-backed forces on our forces anywhere in the world to include in Syria, and we won't hesitate to protect ourselves and take additional measures as appropriate," Kahl said.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani in a statement denied Tehran was linked to the groups the U.S. targeted in Syria and condemned what he called the U.S. Army's "aggression against the people and infrastructure of Syria."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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