The US military says it is not responsible for an attack in eastern Syria that allegedly destroyed a truck belonging to an Iran-backed militia, underlining the extent to which reports of direct strikes in Iraq and Syria originate from rumors.
Two unnamed Iraqi militia officials told The Associated Press that a US drone destroyed the truck on Sunday after firing an initial warning shot. The vehicle is believed to have belonged to Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, a group the US military has targeted in previous airstrikes.
But Army Col. Wayne Marotto, the main spokesperson for the US-led coalition against ISIS, disputed media reports that the US military was involved in such a strike in Syria. It should be noted, however, that the task force does not include the CIA or other US intelligence agencies.
“The CJTF-OIR [Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve] did not carry out airstrikes of any kind in the combined joint operations area today or yesterday, âMarotto said on Monday.
The ambiguity over what happened in eastern Syria on Sunday is typical of the ongoing conflict between US troops who are nominally deployed to the Middle East to fight ISIS and Iran and its proxy forces. .
On June 28, a day after the last confirmed airstrikes by the US military against Iranian-backed militias, US troops near the Omar oil field in Deir Ezzor, Syria, were attacked. The Syro-Kurdish allies of the United States reported that these American troops were attacked again on July 4 and 7, but Marotto tweeted that there had been no attacks on US troops on July 4 and he said he had no information as to whether the attack on July 7 had taken place.
On July 13, the official Syrian news agency reported that a US military base near the Omar oil field had been attacked twice in the past 24 hours, citing anonymous local sources.
In response to a question from a reporter about the alleged incident, Pentagon Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Jessica McNulty refuted Syrian media claims while acknowledging a separate attack on US forces in eastern Syria. “There was an indirect fire attack in Conoco on July 10 in which there were no casualties, injuries or structural damage,” McNulty said.
Meanwhile, US troops and diplomats in Iraq came under sustained attack earlier this month. The attacks came around the time a senior Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps official reportedly urged Shiite militias in Iraq to step up attacks on U.S. facilities, according to Reuters.
On Monday, there was no indication that the attacks on US troops in Iraq and Syria or the conflicting accounts of what really happened would cease anytime soon.
For now, it looks like Iran and the United States will continue to fight in the shadows.