Although Iranian missiles damaged equipment and infrastructure at U.S. and ally-occupied military installations in Iraq Tuesday, training and defensive readiness paid off in avoiding casualties, according to U.S. Military chief Gen. Mark A. Milley.
In the early hours of Wednesday, Iran had attacked two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and international coalition forces in retaliation for last week’s drone attack that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force.
These bases have been on high alert following indications that Iran planned to attack U.S. forces and interests in the region.
Trump revealed in an address to the nation on Wednesday that the Iranian missile attack did not result in the loss of American or Iraqi lives, but minimal damages. This was contrary to Teheran’s claim that at least 60 U.S. troops were killed in the attack, which Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described as a slap on the face of the United States.
Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper briefed the media about the U.S. military’s dent-proof deterrence and preparedness after spending most of the day on Capitol Hill talking with lawmakers to consult on next steps.
“There’s sirens that go off on these bases. … There’s bunkers and jersey barriers, and there’s places to go hide and all that,” said Gen. Milley, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We have various levels of protective gear, and we have various scatter plans that do certain things,” the chairman told reporters at the Pentagon.
“They are all tactics, techniques and procedures — normal defensive procedures that any military unit would do that would come under rocket attack, indirect fire, mortars, large-scale missiles, etc. So in this particular case, Al Asad is a big base — they put 11 large rockets [with] 1,000-, 2,000-pound warheads in them — but we took sufficient defensive measures that there were no casualties to U.S. personnel, coalition personnel, contractors or Iraqis.”
The Defense Secretary said Iran launched 16 rockets into Iraq, which he believes were short-range ballistic missiles.
At least 11 of them struck at Al Asad Air Base, about 175 miles from Iraq’s border with Iran, and about 115 miles from Baghdad. At least one missile also hit at a military installation near Irbil, some 200 miles north of Baghdad and about 60 miles from the border with Iran.
Milley said he believes the Iranians intended to cause deaths.
Esper said he remains cautious about drawing any conclusion that if the Iranians intended to kill Americans and did not accomplish that during the attack, they may consider the attempt a failure and try again.
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