Report: Iraq considers US drone strikes on Syrian border

American officials in Washington confirmed to The Associated Press that Baghdad inquired about having U.S. drones take out targets along the Syrian border, but no formal request had been made to the CIA or the Defense Department. 

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If approved, the drone strikes would be a significant escalation of American involvement in the war between Syrian rebels and embattled president Bashar Assad. 

The Pentagon deployed a battery of Patriot anti-missile systems along the Turkey-Syria border earlier this year, but those weapons are strictly designed as a defensive measure against any cross-border violence from Syria. 

The drone strikes, however, would be the first real offensive use of American military firepower against either side involved in the Syrian conflict. 

Iraq reportedly requested the drone strikes after gunmen from al Qaeda's Syrian and Iraqi factions ambushed a convoy of Iraqi and Syrian troops along the border Tuesday. 

The attack by members of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and Al-Nusra Front in Syria left 48 soldiers dead, according to the AP. 

CIA officials have begun assembling targeting intelligence on Islamic militant groups like Al Nusra and AQI in Syria in preparation for possible armed drone strikes against those terror cells. 

Agency officials have recently shifted several intelligence targeting analysts from its counterterrorism center in Langley, Va., from assignments focusing on Pakistan and Yemen to new operations in Syria, the Los Angeles Times reported in March. 

This new Syria team has been tasked with developing a slate of options for CIA officials to address the growing infiltration of al Qaeda-liked terror groups into the ranks of anti-Assad forces. 

The CIA counterterrorism analysis group is also reportedly looking at possible options to take out Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, which have stoked concerns inside Washington that Assad may use those weapons against rebel fighters.