The U.S. military has shot down a drone, allegedly made by Iran, as it was said to have conducted surveillance over a major oil site in northeastern Syria.
“On February 14th, at approximately 2:30 PM local time, US forces in Syria engaged and shot down an Iranian-manufactured UAV attempting to conduct reconnaissance of Mission Support Site Conoco, a patrol base in northeast Syria,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
Reached for additional comment, CENTCOM spokesperson Army Colonel Joe Buccino told Newsweek that “U.S. forces tracked the drone on radar and engaged with a fixed-site air defense system on the U.S.-partnered patrol base, Mission Support Site Conoco.”
Both the U.S. and Iran operate counterterrorism missions in Syria, though the Pentagon supports a Kurdish-led group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which leads an autonomous government in northeastern Syria, while Tehran coordinates with the central government in Damascus.
While Iran has joined the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, as well as his fellow ally Russia, in accusing the U.S. of exploiting the country’s natural resources through a military presence the trio has deemed illegitimate, the U.S. has charged Iran with seeking to expand its influence in Syria through support for militias that have previously targeted U.S. forces.
A combination of two images published February 14 shows what is purported to be an Iranian drone shot down by U.S. forces near the Conoco oil site in northeastern Syria.
U.S. Central Command
Iran’s drone program has also drawn fire from the U.S. due to the appearance of Iranian-produced loitering munitions, also called “kamikaze” or “suicide” drones, in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Addressing the collapse of diplomacy over the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by the U.S. in 2018, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price cited Iran’s defense ties with Russia, along with its crackdown on protests and incarceration of U.S. citizens, as factors influencing Washington’s refusal to return to the negotiating table during a press briefing earlier Tuesday.
“We’re sending very clear messages to the Iranian regime,” Price said. “Those messages are: Stop killing your own people, stop sending UAV technology to Russia, and free those wrongfully detained American citizens.”
Iran, meanwhile, has faced drone attacks on its own soil, including a strike conducted late last month apparently by quadcopters. The Islamic Republic has blamed the incident on its top foe, Israel, also the U.S.’ closest ally in the Middle East, and announced Friday the arrest of suspects involved in the operation.
U.S. forces have also recently engaged multiple objects within the country’s own airspace this month, the first of which has been deemed a high-altitude spy balloon from China that flew for several days over U.S. territory before meeting a dramatic end off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on February 4.
Three more objects, the origin and purpose of which have yet to be determined, were shot down on February 10 over Alaska, February 11 over Canada’s Yukon Territory and February 12 over Lake Huron.
Update 2/15/2023, 7:44 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include comment from a U.S. Central Command spokesperson Army Colonel Joe Buccino. » …