By Michael Hernandez
A pro-regime convoy struck by the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition in Syria was likely directed by Iran, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Friday.
"It was necessitated," Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, "by offensive movement with offensive capability of what we believe were Iranian-directed" forces.
The forces allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "were advancing well inside" a previously established deconfliction area Thursday where U.S. forces are operating when they were struck northwest of the southeastern city of al-Tanf, the coalition said.
In its announcement of the strike, the coalition said it targeted "pro-regime forces". That is a broad category that could include Lebanese Hezbollah, Iranian forces and militia and irregular Syrian forces known as shabiha.
Prior to launching the strike, the coalition said in a statement it carried out an aerial "show of force", and fired warning shots, but failed to halt the advance.
The coalition said it carried out the strike after Russian attempts to halt the advance on the town apparently failed to stop the troops from advancing.
"We believe they moved into that zone against the advice of the Russians. Or, apparently against the advice of the Russians," Mattis said Friday. "I can't confirm that either, but it looks like the Russians tried to dissuade them."