After the US bombed Iran-allied fighters in Syria last week, the same old question came up yet again. “What are we still doing in Syria?”one headline read, after the bombing.
It always raises the question: Why are they there?”
In an August 25 letter to the US Congress, President Joe Biden explained why he had ordered the retaliatory strikes: “In order to protect and defend the safety of our personnel, to degrade and disrupt the ongoing series of attacks against the US and our partners, and to deter … further attacks.”
In August, one US base in al-Tanf, Syria, close to where the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq meet, had come under attack from drones.
Other US bases, known as Green Village and Koniko in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, were also targeted by rockets. There were no casualties and a spokesperson described the assaults mostly as ” harassing in nature.”
The retaliatory US bombing raids in late August killed at least four fighters. It also destroyed vehicles and rocket launchers as well as storage facilities.
Iran denies that it has anything to do with the groups or targets the US attacked.
So, what does the US really want?
The US government ordered a review of its Syria policy last year.
Firstly, they were there to sustain the fight against the extremist IS group. This includes helping to train and arm the Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, who fought the IS group and who now control this part of Syria.
“The Americans don’t want a big fight in Syria,” Robert Ford, a former US ambassador to Syria, concluded in an editorial for the Saudi-funded media outlet, Asharq Al-Awsat, in May this year. “They have not yet identified a strategic interest in Syria that justifies a major war there.”