January 11, 2022 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1617

Amid Escalating Attacks On U.S. Bases In Syria, Syrian Press Calls To Expand Popular Resistance Until Americans Withdraw

January 11, 2022 | By O. Peri*
Syria | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1617

Once every few months, there is an escalation in the threats and actions of the Assad regime and its allies against the U.S. military presence in Syria.[1] Recently, on October 20, 2021, the international coalition base in Al-Tanf, near the meeting point of the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi borders, was attacked with drones for the first time.[2] Following this attack, which was attributed to the Allies of Syria Operations Room, an umbrella organization of Iran-backed militias, there was a short lull in the armed operations against the U.S. forces, but in December 2021 the attacks resumed.

Furthermore, in the recent weeks, there have been almost daily reports of incidents in which Syrian army forces or villagers in northeastern Syria – where most of the U.S. troops are concentrated – blocked the passage of U.S. military convoys and sometimes also pelted them with stones.

The current escalation is accompanied by a Syrian media campaign, and by statements from regime officials and associates of President Bashar Al-Assad, inciting against the U.S. forces and encouraging resistance against them. The U.S. forces are accused of stealing oil from fields in northeastern Syria[3] and even of providing the Syrians with wheat seeds infected with pests that could harm the soil.[4] 

U.S. forces training in the Deir Al-Zor area (Source:, December 7, 2021)

This report reviews attacks carried out against the U.S. forces in Syria in December 2021, as well as Syrian threats to expand and escalate this action.

Increased Attacks On U.S. Forces With Encouragement Of Official Elements

As stated, December 2021 saw a rise in attempts to target the U.S. forces in Syria. This escalation was encouraged and welcomed by officials of the Syrian regime and by elements close to it. For example, media and political adviser to President Assad Buthaina Sha'ban told Chinese media outlets on December 9 that "the U.S. presence on [Syrian] soil is occupation and will be met with resistance by every possible means."[5] Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said in a January 3, 2022 speech that "the popular resistance by civilians east of the Euphrates, in all its  forms – from blocking roads, burning tires and preventing the passage of the American forces to armed resistance by residents of the area – is the correct option, and will eventually cause the American forces to leave Syria."[6]

The current escalation against the American presence in Syria has been manifest in a series of attacks on the forces of the international coalition and the U.S. For example, in early December the Russia Today channel and the pro-regime Syrian daily Al-Watan reported that three rockets had been fired at the international coalition base at the Conoco natural gas field east of Deir Al-Zor.[7] According to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, the rockets were launched from an area under the control of the Syrian regime and Iranian militias the in Deir Al-Zor area.[8]

Several days later, on December 7, the Syrian regime's news agency SANA reported that two IEDs were activated against a U.S. military convoy in Al-Ya'rubiya in the eastern Hasakah governorate, severely damaging some of the vehicles.[9]

On December 16 it was reported that, four days earlier, the international coalition forces had intercepted a drone that was threatening the Al-Tanf base in southeastern Syria, and that Iran-backed militias were suspected of being behind this attempted attack. [10]

On December 31, Syrian television reported that mortars had been fired at a U.S. base in the city of Al-Shaddadi in the south of the Al-Hasakah governorate,[11] and websites identified with the Syrian opposition reported that the base in the Conoco gas field had been targeted with rockets fired from areas controlled by Iran-backed militias.[12] Other reports from the same day stated that international coalition reconnaissance planes flying over the area of the Conoco gas field and the Al-Omar oil field had identified rocket launchers aimed at the coalition bases and seized them before they could be used.[13] 

Rocket launchers that had been aimed at international coalition bases east of Deir Al-Zor (Source:, December 31, 2021)

The escalation of attacks against the U.S. forces has continued into January 2022. On January 3, the Syrian Human Rights Observatory reported that Iran-backed militias had moved advanced weapons, including Iran-made mid- and long-range missiles, to bases in the eastern Palmyra mountains. The website noted that this area is not far from the base in Al-Tanf, and that the international coalition is concerned about possible attacks to mark the second anniversary of the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by the U.S.[14]

On January 4, the international coalition disclosed that its forces had attacked rocket launch sites that were threatening the Green Village U.S. base in eastern Deir Al-Zor.[15] One day later rockets were reportedly fired on the international coalition base at the Al-Omar oil field, prompting a counterattack by coalition forces on the source of the rocket fire in the Al-Mayadin desert, in the area where Iran-backed militias are operating.[16] On January 6 explosions were heard near the coalition base at the Conoco gas field.[17]

Syrian Assistant Information Minister: We Must Employ Popular Resistance Against U.S. Occupation That Is Seeking To Destroy Humanity

The Syrian state press has been encouraging action against the U.S. forces. In his weekly column in the daily Al-Thawra, Ahmad Dawa an assistant to Syria's information minister, called for increasing the popular resistance against the U.S. presence and stated that the resistance will not stop until the American occupier leaves. He wrote: "Not a day goes by without popular resistance operations against the U.S. occupation forces and their mercenaries, and against the false officials of northeastern Syria [i.e., the Kurdish-dominated Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria] – operations that reflect the Syrians' refusal to accept this occupation and its servants and the false U.S. claims. Locals blocking the occupation convoys from passing through their villages and farms and forcing them to turn back and leave has become a daily spectacle. The Western and American media, which describes the conduct of this occupation in a way that conflicts with reality, are hiding this matter and keeping silent about it, [but the fact is] that the American forces continue to loot and rob Syria's resources, to arbitrarily arrest anyone who opposes their illegitimate presence, and to instruct their mercenaries and servants to persecute the locals, threaten their lives and push them to leave their cities and villages, in an open attempt to perpetrate [ethnic] cleansing…

"The Western governments delude their peoples into thinking that their armies spread freedom and democracy in the world and contribute to maintaining global peace and security. But in practice they are spreading chaos and terror, looting, destroying countries and pushing the world towards a war that could exterminate humanity. In the last two decades, the U.S.  has justified its invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq by claiming to fight terrorism, spread democracy and freedom, and dismantle weapons of mass destruction. But those who now rule Afghanistan are those whom the U.S. once regarded as terrorists, and in Iraq the [American] invasion led to the death of over three million Iraqis, and the country suffers terrorism and division, while no weapons of mass destructions have been found.

"The Syrians will not stop opposing every kind of occupation, until it is removed. Today the Syrians prevent American convoys from passing, [but] in the near future they will completely prevent them from returning [to their bases]. A bitter fate also awaits the mercenaries and those who collaborated with this occupation and with others, who betrayed their homeland for a little money and a false status."  [18]

Former Syrian Ambassador To Iran: Make Americans Leave By Firing On Their Bases

Tarky Saqer, Syria's former ambassador to Tehran and a former editor of the Syrian daily Al-Ba'th, who currently writes a column in the state daily Teshreen, threatened in a December 7 column that there would be further attacks on the international coalition base in Al-Tanf. He wrote: "The U.S. base in Al-Tanf has been bombed by drones for the second time in two weeks,[19] sparking alarm among the U.S. troops. [It also caused] Pentagon commanders to feel increasingly concerned about the fate of the American occupiers' base in Syria,  which was established in a strategic location at the meeting point of the Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian borders, in an area of over 50 square kilometers. It [seemed] unlikely that anyone would dare to attack it after it was massively fortified.

"[Even] disregarding the damage to property and loss of life caused by the first and second attacks, the repeated great explosions at the heart of this fortified base, and the fear and alarm sparked by this infiltration, indicate that the American occupation, with all its power and capabilities, is unable to prevent the resistance from reaching it in the very heart of its strongholds, destroying its prestige, abolishing [people's] fear of it, weakening its power and conveying messages written in fire, so as to make [America] understand that its occupation of foreign soil cannot continue. Its repeated attacks on the resistance will not go unanswered. Rather, the response will be always ready and will not be long in reaching its target…

"So far, it seems that the Biden administration is still deliberating whether to withdraw voluntarily from Syria. This means that the fiery messages will be repeated, in Al-Tanf and in other areas where the American occupation is present. This is a language the American occupier understands, and it will accelerate its decision to withdraw. There can be no doubt that the American occupation is temporary, no matter how much the occupier insists [on staying] or hesitates [to leave]."[20]

Senior Journalist: Syrians Must Help Regime Expel U.S. Occupation That Is Stealing Country's Resources

'Abd Al-Rahim Ahmad, the former director of Syria's news agency SANA and currently a columnist for Al-Thawra, wrote on December 14 that the U.S. forces in the country must be targeted and that the popular resistance against them will expand: "Wresting our country's stolen resources from the hands of the American occupier and its proxy, the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] militia, is without a doubt the best way [to improve our economic situation], even if is [also] the hardest way… The arrangements being made by Syria in Deir Al-Zor, and the similar arrangements being made in the Dara'a district,[21] are a natural prelude to forming the right environment for renewing agricultural life in the area and pulling the rug out from under the feet of the SDF militia and the American occupation, who tried to start a civil war and undermine the locals' faith in the state and its executive institutions. [These arrangements] also prepare the ground for the Syrians to unite against the occupier and its helpers, who are stealing the country's resources and denying them to the rest of the people of the homeland.

"The operations of the resistance factions against the American occupier and its agent, the SDF militia, as well as the popular objection to the occupation – evident in the local's resistance [actions] against the occupation's patrols – are a prelude to wider popular resistance against the occupation and its helpers, [resistance] which has the greatest ability to defeat [the occupation] and expel it from our land.  

"We, the Syrians in northeastern Syria and elsewhere, must now help our Arab Syrian army, which is deployed in many areas, to fight against terrorism, against the American and Turkish occupation, and against the Israeli attacks. We must carry out popular resistance so as to pressure the occupier and its helpers and inflict pain on it by [targeting] its troops, until it is defeated and we regain our wheat fields in northeastern Syria, as well as our oil and gas wells. Only then will we be able to say that the solution [to the economic crisis] lies in defeating the occupier, and say to those who are besieging us: You are defeated."[22]


* O. Peri is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[3], December 9, 18, 2021; January 3, 2022.

[4] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 29, 2021;, December 27, 2021. It should be noted that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said  that the wheat seeds it provides to farmers in northeast Syria "undergo a series of tests to verify their quality. The tests screen the seeds for purity, ensure they’re free of infections and pests, and confirm they’re well treated with fungicide.", November 28, 2021.  

[5], December 9, 2021.

[6], January 4, 2021.

[7], December 4, 2021; Al-Watan (Syria), December 5, 2021.

[8], December 4, 2021.

[9], December 7, 2021.

[10], December 16, 2021.

[11], December 31, 2021.

[12],, December 31, 2021.

[13],, December 31, 2021.  

[14], January 3, 2021.

[15], January 4, 2021.

[16] Al-'Arabi Al-Jadid (London), January 5, 2021.

[17], January 6, 2021.

[18]  Al-Thawra (Syria), December 18, 2021.

[19] This claim is inaccurate. On November 20, 2021, one month after the October 20, 2021 attack on the Al-Tanf base, the Arabi21 website reported that the base had been attacked again, but in practice it was recycling a report by the Syrian Human Rights Observatory about the first attack (, November 20, 2021). On December 5, 2021 Syria's official news agency, SANA, reported that explosions had been heard in the base, but a source in the international coalition denied that the base had been attacked.,, December 5, 2021.

[20], December 7, 2021.

[21] This refers to agreements as part of which residents surrendered their arms to the regime, in return for protection from prosecution as draft evaders or defectors from the Syrian army.  

[22] Al-Thawra (Syria), December 14, 2021.

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