An American aircraft today shot down an Iranian-made armed drone approaching U.S.-led coalition forces in southern Syria, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement. “The armed pro-regime Shaheed-129 UAV was shot down by a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle at approximately 12:30 a.m. after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces,” the statement added. “The Coalition has made it clear to all parties publicly and through the de-confliction line with Russian forces that the demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated,” it warned. The statement, however, emphasized that “the Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.” It further called on all parties to “focus their efforts on the defeat of ISIS, our common enemy and the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security.”
Comment: Today’s incident was the latest in a series of dangerous encounters between pro-Syrian regime forces and the American military and its allies in Syria. It was the second time the coalition is targeting an Iranian drone in less than two weeks. On June, U.S. officials said an American aircraft shot down an Iranian drone after it dropped munitions near coalition forces near al-Tanf border crossing. The region is manned by the U.S. military, which trains and advises Syrian rebel forces to fight the Islamic State.
Although the U.S. military stresses that its primary focus is to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and the broader region, the latest encounters mark an escalation between the U.S. military and pro-Damascus forces and raise the possibility of more confrontations between the U.S. military and Iran – and perhaps also Russia – in Syria in the near future. Indeed, today’s incident came just days after an American aircraft shot down a Syrian regime warplane after it had dropped bombs near U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria. In reaction to the downing of the Syrian aircraft, Russia announced it would suspend de-confliction hotline with the United States and its allies, but U.S. military officials say the hotline is still operational. Recently, American forces have targeted Iranian-supported militia forces advancing toward the al-Tanf region as well.