US officials have claimed that they had advance intelligence about the Iranians missile strike at US bases in Iraq and all soldiers were safely moved to bunkers with protective gears to avoid any casualties, reports The Washington Post.
According to senior US officials, the Iranian missile attack was intended to cause minimal casualties and give Iran a face-saving measure after General Soleimani was killed in a US drone strikes.
The lack of casualties confirmed that Iran was trying to save face by making a public show of force, according to US military officials. Officials claimed that they were given a warning about Iran’s strike from intelligence sources, hours before the attack.
“We knew, and the Iraqis told us, that this was coming many hours in advance. We had intelligence reports several hours in advance that the Iranians were seeking to strike the bases,” said a senior administration official.
Other officials said that if Iraqis did, in fact, warn the US, it wasn’t hours in advance. “It was literally like right before” the Iranians launched their missiles, one senior defence official said. “There was a lot of concern. It was anxious, wanting to get updates.”
US troops were ordered into bunkers with protective gear and told to “shelter in place”, said military officials, adding that they were told to remain in hiding for hours – even after the first strike.
“It’s not luck that no one got killed,” another senior defence official said. “Luck always plays a role. But military commanders on the ground made a good judgment and had a good response.”
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning said an “early warning system” helped prevent any loss. A defence official later said the president was referring to the radar network, set up by the military to search for missiles.
Firstly, the US had “clear indications” of a strike prior to the attack and military officials were aware that Iran would avenge the death of Soleimani. “The Pentagon fully expected retaliation from Iran. What that was was the issue. But we fully expected some sort of reaction,” a military official said.
Secondly, the US military has satellites that help detect a missile shortly after it is launched – allowing them to be fully aware of the attack before it happened.
Commanders on the ground directed service members off small bases in the region and dispersed people and equipment to avoid being targeted. US officials reported the possibility of an attack, an hour before it happened.
A senior US military official said the Pentagon was unable to identify the attack “until actual impact on two specific bases”. He added, “the attack spread out for more than an hour.. It was more than an hour from the first attack to the last attack.”
“This was not a ‘boom’ and all of this hit at once. This was launch, launch, launch.”
Another military official reported that right after the attack, the Pentagon telephoned several partner nations to inform them. US officials confirmed that there were no casualties on Wednesday after service members assessed the damage.
While some senior officials believed that Iran was trying to save face, others believe Iran had different intentions. “I believe based on what I saw and what I know is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel,” the Joint Chief’s chairman Mark A Milley said. “That’s my own personal assessment.”