and Conflicts Between the United States and Syria
USS New Jersey firing 16" rounds at Syrian and Druze positions
in Lebanon on February 4, 1984.
With the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011
various rebel groups sought to overthrow the Assad regime, and the
increased violence and threats of international escalation and
intervention led, eventually, to the United States supplying some
rebel groups with military aid. Added to the complicated mix of
warring factions, the Islamic State set up shop in the Syrian city
of Raqqa, and spread their brand of Jihad to Iraq and other
nations. This prompted the U.S. and other nations to fight the
Islamic State (aka ISIS/ISIL/Daesh) inside Syria without the
permission of the Syrian government. In 2013, after the Syrian
government used chemical weapons on a civilian target, President
Obama nearly launched an attack on Assad, but in a deal Obama
struck with Assad and his Russian allies to supposedly remove all
Syrian government chemical weapons, staved off an American attack
on Syria. It was later confirmed that Syria retained chemical
weapons, though the Obama Administration did not take military
action against Assad.
In August, 2014, the United States began
military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq, and in
September, 2014, the United States and other Western allies also
began airstrikes inside Syria against ISIS. In April, 2017,
further Syrian use of chemical weapons prompted an American
missile strike on Syria on the order of President
The United States and Syria have engaged in
military action against each other before the current Syrian Civil
War and the ISIS conflict. In the early 1980s, the United
States, France, and Italy sent troops to Lebanon to help stabalize
a very bad situation. This peace-keeping mission eventually
devolved into a major combat action against the Syrian military
forces in Lebanon and their Lebanese militia allies.
The Cold War--The Cold War was a
conflict between the United States and her allies, against the
Soviet Union and her allies and satellites from the end of World
War Two to the early 1990s. Syria's friendly relations with the
Soviets began in the 1950s, grew dramatically in the 1960s, and
become much more pronounced during and after Syria's 1973 war with
Israel, and Egypt's shift toward the U.S. and away from Russia.
The Syrian-Soviet alliance was driven by a mutual hostility toward
the United States, Israel, and the pro-American Arab states, such
as Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
U.S.-Syrian Conflict in Lebanon
conflict between the United States (and allies), against Syria,
and her Muslim militia allies, including a newly-formed Hezbollah.
From the mid-1970s, Syria had occupied much of eastern Lebanon in
support of Palestinian and other Islamic factions in the
Christian/Muslim civil war in Lebanon. Also, Syrian and
Palestinian occupation of large swaths of Lebanon facilitated
terrorist attacks on Israel. In June, 1982, Israel invaded
southern Lebanon in order to drive the Palestinian Liberation
Organization (PLO) from Lebanon.
The Israeli military began a seven-week siege
of Beirut, in which they attempted to bomb the PLO into
submission. As this caused high numbers of civilian casualties,
the United States and other Western nations attempted to negotiate
a cease-fire. In August, 1982, an agreement was reached that
called for American, French, and Italian peace-keeping troops (the
Multi-National Force, or MNF), to take up positions in Beirut
between the PLO and the Israelis, and the PLO would evacuate
Beirut for exile in Tunisia.
On August 25, 1982 the MNF landed, with
800 U.S. Marines of the 32d Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU),
commanded by Colonel James M. Mead, along with 400 French
paratroopers and 800 Italian Bersaglieri. The PLO evacuation took
place, with 8,500 Palestinian fighters shipping out to Tunisia,
and 2,500 to other Arab countries. Following the
PLO evacuation, the Marines and other foreign troops left.
Soon though, further violence in Lebanon prompted the Western
nations to return to provide a buffer between the Christians and
Muslims. The MNF returned to Beirut on September 29, 1982,
and the U.S. Marines joined 2,200 French and Italian troops
already in place in Beirut.
The Marines set up shop in and around the
Beirut airport. Eventually, the Marines presence extended to
patrolling the "Green Line" that divided the city into Christian
and Muslim sectors, and began training the Lebanese National
On March 16, 1983, Five Marines were wounded in
a grenade attack in the first direct attack on American
peacekeeping troops in Lebanon. Eleven Italian troops were also
wounded in a related attack. Islamic Jihad and
Al-Amal, a Shi'ite militia claimed responsibility.
This began the back-and-forth desultory firefights and mortar and
artillery exchanges between the U.S forces and the various
Jihadist militias and their Syrian and Iranian backers. The most
infamous part of this conflict came on October 23, 1983, when a
suicide bomber (an Iranian national) drove a truck filled with
explosives into the barracks housing the Marines. 241 U.S.
military personnel died in the explosion. A similar attack also
targeted the French base a few miles away.
From that point onward, the U.S. engaged in
frequent combat with Syrian and Jihadist forces in and around
Beirut. In February, 1984, the battleship USS New Jersey, fired
300 rounds from her 16-inch guns into Syrian positions in the
mountains around Beirut, destroying multiple artillery positions,
including the Syrian headquarters, killing the Syrian commanding
The only U.S. airstrike in this conflict with
Syria in Lebanon came in December, 1983, after Syrian
anti-aircraft batteries fired on a U.S. reconnaisance plane. 28
Navy carrier-based bombers launched an attack on Syrian positions
east of Beirut. Two U.S. planes were shot down, with one pilot
killed and another captured (he was freed about a month
Most American forces were withdrawn from
Lebanon in February, 1984, with the last U.S. Marines leaving in
The Lebanese Civil War would continue until
1990, when Syrian forces defeated the Christian
Raid Into Syria (October,
2008)-Part of the American War in
Iraq, the U.S. launched a cross-border raid into Syria in an
attack on an al-Qaida base. The
Syrian government claimed that eight people died at the Sukkariyeh
Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian
border from Iraq. Witnesses said that four helicopters were used
in the American raid. The area is near the Iraqi border city of
Qaim, which is a major crossing point for al-Qaida allied foreign
fighters, weapons and money infiltrating into Iraq to aid the
Sunni insurgency against the Iraqi government and American forces.
The apparant target of
the raid was a man named Abu Ghadiya, who was a senior al-Qaeda
rebellion against the regime of Bashir Assad. While at first only
supplying non-lethal aid to the moderate Free Syrian Army rebels,
the United States soon began conducting military training and
arming of the anti-Assad rebels. In August, 2014, the U.S. began
airstrikes against ISIS forces in Syria. As of 2017, the U.S.
also maintains a small force of combat troops and advisors on
Syrian soil aiding Kurdish and other groups fighting against ISIS.
The U.S. actions in Syria against ISIS are conducted without
the permission of the Assad regime.
Syrian Rescue Attempt (2014)-On July 4,
2014, American Special Forces launched a raid near the
ISIS -held Syrian city of Raqqa in an attempt to free foreign
hostages, including two American journalists.
American Missile Strike on Syria (April
6, 2017)-In response to the Assad regime's apparant use of
chemical weapons on a civilian target, the April 4 chemical attack
in Khan Sheikhoun, United States President Donald Trump ordered a
retaliatory strike against the Syrian air base at Al Shayrat. Two
U.S. Navy destoyers launched 59 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles at the
Syrian target. The U.S. missile strike destoyed approximately 20
Syrian warplanes, various arms depots, anti-aircraft defenses, and
other buildings and targets. Syria claimed six base personnel were
U.S. Shootdown of Syrian Warplane (June
18, 2017)-In the area near the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa,
Syrian government forces attacked U.S.-backed Syrian rebels. In
response, a U.S. a F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22
that had dropped bombs near positions of the anti-Assad