April 10, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10558

Following Iranian Drone Attack On U.S. Base In Syria, Increase In Syrian Threats To Strike U.S. Forces Until They Leave

April 10, 2023
Iran, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 10558

A statement issued March 23, 2023 by the U.S. Pentagon revealed that an American civilian contractor was killed and five U.S. service members and one other contractor were wounded when an Iranian drone struck a base of the U.S.-led global coalition in Kharab Al-Jir, near Al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria.[1] This is the first time that an American has been reported killed in the exchanges of fire between the U.S. forces and the Iran-backed militias in Syria, which have been occurring on an almost monthly basis since 2021. Responsibility for the attack was claimed two days later, on March 25, by a previously unknown Iran-backed militia called Liwa Al-Ghaliboun, whose announcement implied that the drone had been launched from Iraq.[2]

Following the drone strike there were reprisals and counter-reprisals, in which the U.S. attacked positions of the Iran-backed militias and the latter targeted additional coalition bases in northeastern Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, affiliated with the Syrian opposition, 19 members of the Iran-backed militias and of the Syrian regime forces were killed in the attacks.[3]

The strike on the U.S. forces in Syria was met with  praise and encouragement in the Syrian state and pro-state media, which called to increase the resistance to the U.S. military presence and to deal the U.S. forces additional painful and intensive blows until they withdraw from the country. Syrian and Arab commentators called the U.S. troops in Syria a terrorist and occupying force that is destined to be defeated, and predicated that pressure from the resistance causing significant losses will soon cause them to leave Syria in disgrace.

It should be noted that in the recent years the Syrian press has periodically hardened its tone against the U.S. presence in the country and threatened to leverage popular resistance against it.[4] This time, these threats are being made against the backdrop of a debate in the U.S. itself about the future of the American presence in Syria.[5]

American forces in northeastern Syria (Image:, March 8, 2023)

This report reviews some of the recent threats in the Syrian media against the American forces in the country:

Syrian Journalist: Further High-Quality Attacks Against The American Forces Will Ensure Their Imminent Departure

Many articles in the Syrian press perceived the recent series of attacks against the U.S. bases in Syria, one of which resulted in the death of an American civilian, as a significant turning point, and asserted that the resistance against the U.S. forces would increase and eventually compel them to leave the country. In a March 30, 2023 article in the state daily Teshreen, columnist Maha Sultan assessed that further high-quality attacks against the Americans, like those of March 23-24, 2023, will hasten their withdrawal. She wrote, "This is the calm before the next storm, which will certainly be bigger and more painful and will not be long in coming. However, after the next strike we won't hear the American occupiers raising their voices in a threatening manner or hurrying 'to respond,' because 'the response to the response' will be [even] more severe, causing them even greater material and moral damage, in a degrading and humiliating manner,  [which will affect them] not only in Syria… or Iraq but in the entire region.

"The principle established by the resistance on… March 23-24 will be worn by the American occupation like an earring, reminding it always that its presence in Syria is coming to end and that the irreversible process of its disappearance has already begun…

"Since direct military confrontation is not possible, for reasons known to all, there was no choice but to confront [the Americans] in the manner of the free peoples, with the support of loyal friends who raise the same banner and strive for the same goal [as the Syrian resistance]: liberation from imperialism in all its forms until the countries of the region are independent and its peoples [can live in] peace. The U.S. has no right to oppose the blows of the resistance or to make threats as long as it remains in Syria as an occupying and terrorist force. It must understand, now more than ever, that nothing will change its fate, which is unavoidable defeat at the hands of the Syrian popular resistance and its allies. It won't be long before we witness this defeat…

"The central principle, namely that the American occupier will not leave unless it suffers costly fatalities, has become easy for the Syrian popular resistance and its allies to fulfil. [Another] series of high-quality blows like the recent ones will soon suffice [to achieve this], if [the attacks] are intensive, widespread and cause the maximum harm in lives, financial cost and [damage to] morale…"[6]

Columnist In Syrian Daily: This Confrontation Was Like A Real War: A Barrage Of Rockets On U.S. Bases In Syria

In his column in the Teshreen daily, Iraqi journalist Rahim Hadi Al-Shamakhi likewise wrote that successive and frequent attacks on the U.S. bases will lead to the Americans' imminent defeat: "The March 23-24 confrontation in northern and northeastern Syria, between the Syrian popular resistance and its allies [on the one hand] and the American occupier [on the other], deprived [the latter] of all its lines of defense on land and in the air. This confrontation was at the level of a real war, and even if the battlefield was small, the results were tremendous and the situation after [the confrontation] is not the same as was before it. If the resistance employs a tactic based on frequent wars of this type, at the same intensity and with the same momentum, we will shortly witness the defeat of the American forces on Syrian soil…

"In the [March] 23-24 confrontations, the Syrian popular resistance and its allies crushed all the red lines established by the American occupier, according to which no one dares approach the American forces in Syria or their illegal bases. The resistance not only approached [them] today, but fired a barrage of rockets into the depth of the [U.S.] presence in Syria and into the very heart of its military bases. The message to the U.S. is clear: it no longer has much influence in the region, and this influence will soon be completely eliminated, in accordance with the new rules of confrontation and deterrence, under which the American occupier will be defeated and that will be the end of the matter…"[7]

Syrian Columnist: If The American Occupier Doesn't Leave, The Next Blow Will Be More Painful

Teshreen columnist Hiba 'Ali Ahmad also warned the U.S. that it should leave Syria quickly or face even more painful attacks. She wrote on March 30: "The American presence in the region is in danger… This is obvious in light of the recent developments in the region, which are part of the joint initiative against the American-Zionist enterprise that has always targeted our region, and following the blows recently dealt to the illegal American bases in Syria, particularly in Al-Hasakah and Deir Al-Zor. This is not just part of the equation of 'fire for fire' and the readiness to respond against the American occupation. It is the beginning of the end of this occupation, and not a moment too soon! Even if it takes days, months or years, its destiny is one: downfall and departure, after which the land will be liberated from every illegal presence…

"Whoever [attacked the American bases] – whether [it was done] from inside Syrian territory by the popular resistance, its allies or both of them together, or from outside Syrian territory, specifically from the direction of the border with Iraq the resistance initiative is one and the objective is one: to warn the occupation and to clearly demand its rapid withdrawal, for if it does not leave, the next incident will be larger in scope and more painful for the American occupation…"[8]

Columnists In Syrian Dailies: The U.S. Has Never Withdrawn Willingly, But Only Under Pressure

Other columnists asserted that the U.S. will not leave Syria willingly but only under pressure from the resistance, as evident from the examples of its withdrawal from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Egyptian journalist Muhammad Sa'id Ahmad, who has a column in Teshreen, wrote on March 30: "This isn't the first time we have discussed the illegitimate American presence in the Arab land of Syria, and it certainly won't be the last. [But] the developments we witnessed in the recent days indicate that the American enemy will be forced to withdraw its occupation forces from the Arab Syrian soil. Here it must be noted that, throughout its aggressive history, this American enemy has never withdrawn willingly from any country it attacked. The historical fact is that its withdrawal from Vietnam was under pressure from the Vietnamese resistance, which killed more than 50,000 American troops, and the same thing happened in Afghanistan, where the American army suffered heavy losses that ultimately compelled it to withdraw in disgrace. And of course let's not forget its withdrawal from Iraq under the pressure of the painful blows delivered by the resistance [there], which [likewise] caused its forces tremendous losses.

"Today the illegal American military bases on Syrian soil are being attacked with rockets fired from drones, and this drives the American enemy mad. Now that the American Congress has voted against a withdrawal from Syria, it will be forced to withdraw in disgrace under the blows of the courageous and heroic resistance, as has always been the case."[9]  

Muhriz Al-'Ali wrote in his March 29 column in the Syrian state daily Al-Thawra: "The American occupation violates Syria's sovereignty and [territorial] integrity and contravenes international law. This occupation is officially and publicly illegitimate, and it must leave Syrian soil or else fight the resistance, which the Syrian people have a legitimate right to wage. Invaders will not enjoy security in Syria that is the message [conveyed] by every self-respecting Syrian to the occupiers. Just as the Iraqi resistance humiliated the Americans in Iraq, and just as [the Americans] withdrew in disgrace from Afghanistan, the Syrian resistance will expel them from Syria and purify every inch [of land] defiled by the terrorists and invaders, whatever the cost and whatever sacrifice is required."[10]

In a Teshreen article presenting remarks from several Syrian commentators, Aws Darwish, a Syrian expert on international law, predicted that "the frequency of the attacks [against the U.S. forces in Syria] will increase in the coming period… which will force the U.S. to withdraw from the region in defeat, and the best evidence for this is what happened to the Marines in the 1980s[11]…"[12]

Syrian Tribal Leaders: The Resounding Slap In The Face Will Cause The Americans To Leave

Pro-regime tribal leaders and regime-appointed officials in the northeast of the country also contended that the painful blows dealt them by the Syrian popular resistance will compel the Americans to withdraw. For example, Sheikh Fares Muhammad Al-Fares of the Tay Tribe said: "The operations of the resistance against the American occupation will escalate until its leaders are forced to opt for withdrawal as a solution to the problem of burnout among its troops, which it has started to experience since an American soldier [sic] was killed in the latest attack."[13]

Sheikh Faraj Al-Mahmoud, of the Al-Rashid tribe, said: "From the start, the American occupation forces in northeast Syria encountered popular loathing that is stronger than they are. From the start the resistance to the occupation strengthened the faith of the residents, and in the following years their position developed until they adopted and supported the popular resistance. [This resistance] began to wear down the Americans, until they received the most recent resounding slap, which will pave the way to their final departure from Syria."[14]

Jamal Al-'Abdallah, president of the Syrian regime's Al-Furat University in Al-Hasakah Governorate, said: "The news from Washington is of a serious debate in the Pentagon about a withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Syria, and this is because the robust popular resistance has begun to act, and because [the attacks] that the Americans recently experienced, despite their importance, may pale in comparison to what this resistance [is preparing but] is keeping hidden until the next, decisive phase."[15] 

Bassam Abu 'Abdallah, a Syrian academic and a columnist for the pro-regime Al-Watan daily, also wrote that "the popular resistance has begun to cohere, to grow stronger and to select its objectives with care, in a regional and international environment which supports this, and any harm occasionally inflicted on an American soldier generates pressure on the American Administration…"[16]


[1], March 23, 2023. On March 30 the Pentagon revealed that six additional U.S. troops were wounded in attacks by the Iran-backed militias., March 30, 2023.

[2] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), March 26, 2023.

[3], March 25, 2023.

[4] See MEMRI 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; MEMRI JTTM Report, Attack On Al-Tanf Base By Resistance Axis Forces– A Turning Point In Axis Efforts To Expel U.S. Troops From Syria, October 21, 2021; See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1593, Amid Escalation In Rocket Attacks On U.S. Forces In Syria, Pro-Regime Syrian Press Threatens: This Is A New Phase In Resistance; Every Rocket Will Be Met With A Rocket 'Until Occupiers Leave', August , 2021; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8994, Syrian Regime Continues To Encourage Popular Tribal Resistance Against U.S.; Assad: This Is The Only Way To Force The Americans To Leave, October 28, 2020; MEMRI JTTM Report, Pro-Syrian Regime Group Releases Video Threatening U.S. Base In Al-Tanf; Urges Popular Resistance To U.S. Presence In Syria, September 23, 2020; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8803, Syrian Media Threatens Escalation Of Resistance Against U.S. Forces In Country: America’s Policy "Will Not Cause People To Take To The Streets; It Will Cause The Missiles To Emerge From The Depots", June 17, 2020; MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1504, Assad Regime Encourages Attacks On U.S. Forces In Northern Syria: They Can Choose To Leave On Their Own Feet, Or In Coffins, March 11, 2020; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8398, Assad Regime Calls For Popular Resistance To Expel U.S. Forces From Syria, December 9, 2019; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7451, Syrian Threats Against The U.S. Presence In Syria Continue: U.S. Troops, Bases Are In Our Sights And Will Pay A Heavy Price, May 2, 2018; and MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7402, Syrian Regime: We Will Expel U.S. Forces From Syria By Means Of Popular Resistance, March 28, 2018.

[5] On March 9, 2023, the U.S. Congress voted down a bill to pull the U.S. forces from Syria within six months (, March 9, 2023).

[6] Teshreen (Syria), March 30, 2023.

[7] Teshreen (Syria), March 30, 2023.

[8] Teshreen (Syria), March 30, 2023.

[9] Teshreen (Syria), March 30, 2023.

[10] Al-Thawra (Syria), March 29, 2023.

[11] The reference is to Hizbullah's 1983 deadly bombing of barracks housing U.S. and French troops in Beirut, in which 305 people were killed, 241 of them Americans, and which eventually led to the withdrawal of the multinational force from the country the following year.

[12] Teshreen (Syria), March 30, 2023.

[13], March 30, 2023.

[14], March 30, 2023.

[15], March 30, 2023.

[16] Teshreen (Syria), March 30, 2023.

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