US Forces Shoot Down Iranian-Made Spy Drone Surveying Patrol Base in Syria

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
February 15, 2023Middle East
US Forces Shoot Down Iranian-Made Spy Drone Surveying Patrol Base in Syria
An Iranian-made drone that the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) says was shot down by U.S. forces in northeastern Syria on Feb. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of U.S. Central Command)

The U.S. military on Wednesday announced that it downed an Iranian-manufactured drone that was reportedly surveying a patrol base in Syria that houses American troops.

In a statement on Feb. 15, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was shot down on Feb. 14 at approximately 2:30 p.m. local time as it flew over the base, which is located in the northeastern part of the country.

“U.S. 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,” said CENTCOM.

Jeremy Binnie, a senior analyst at IHS Janes, an intelligence company that specializes in military and aerospace, told Stripes that the UAV appeared to be a short-range aircraft hand-launched by forces near the patrol base.

CENTCOM—which is one of the Pentagon’s 11 unified combatant commands responsible for protecting U.S. security interests in an area stretching from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia—did not reveal who was operating the aircraft.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for flying the drone in northeastern Syria, where it is not uncommon for bases housing American troops to come under rocket fire or mortar attacks.

Iran-backed militia are based nearby, as are sleeper cells of the ISIS terrorist group that was defeated in Syria in March 2019.

There are roughly 900 American troops in Syria, including in the north and farther south and east, who work alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces targeting ISIS militants and their sleeper cells.

Weapon Sales

The shootdown comes as the United States put new trade restrictions on multiple Iranian entities in February, claiming the firms are producing and exporting weapons and aerial drones to Russia and Middle Eastern countries.

In February, CENTCOM said in a statement that more than 3,000 assault rifles, 578,000 rounds of ammunition, and 23 advanced anti-tank guided missiles were seized by the U.S. Navy in cooperation with international naval partners as the weaponry was headed to Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels from Iran.

NTD Photo
Weapons seized from Iran by U.S. Central Command on Jan. 15, 2023. (U.S. Navy)
NTD Photo
Weapons seized from Iran by U.S. Central Command on Jan. 15, 2023. (U.S. Navy)

CENTCOM said the confiscation occurred on Jan. 15 in the Gulf of Oman, along routes “historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen.”

“The seizure is one of four significant illicit cargo interdictions over the past two months that have prevented more than 5,000 weapons and 1.6 million rounds of ammunition from reaching Yemen,” CENTCOM stated.

Iran has not publicly acknowledged it sold weapons to the Houthis. However, CENTCOM shared a photo of the seized rifles and ammunition that looked similar to others previously captured by U.S. forces that were tied to Tehran.

While Iran has repeatedly denied that it backs the rebel group, the United Nations (U.N.), independent experts, and Western nations have all traced seized weaponry—ranging from night-vision scopes, rifles, and missiles—to Tehran after finding them on detained vessels.

Arms sales and transfers to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law.

Epoch Times reporter Katabella Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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