Wars and Conflicts Between the United States and Syria


USS New Jersey 1984 Lebanon

American battleship 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 Trump.

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.

The U.S.-Syrian Conflict in Lebanon (1983-1984)--Military 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 Army.

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 general.

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 later).

Most American forces were withdrawn from Lebanon in February, 1984, with the last U.S. Marines leaving in July, 1984.

The Lebanese Civil War would continue until 1990, when Syrian forces defeated the Christian militias.

American 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 leader.

Syrian Civil War (2011-Present)--Syrian 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 killed.

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 rebels.



 Sources and Links:

Chronology: Marines in lebanon, 1982-1984

U.S. Strike Designed to Deter Assad Regime’s Use of Chemical Weapons  -Department of Defense article

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