American and Iraqi soldiers at Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq are reported to have scrambled to move personnel and weaponry to fortified bunkers nearly eight hours before Iran’s January 8 missile attack on the base and another on a base at Erbil.
Reuters reported the scenario on January 13 after interviewing two Iraqi officers stationed at Ain al-Asad.
By midnight, not a single fighter jet or helicopter remained out in the open, one of the sources, an intelligence officer, was cited as saying. Another Iraqi intelligence source said US troops seemed “totally aware” the base would be attacked “after midnight.”
When the missiles finally landed at about 01:30 local time, they struck “empty bunkers that had been evacuated hours before,” the intelligence source said. No one was injured or killed in either of the two attacks.
Such reports add to the theory that the retaliatory strikes by Iran—conducted after the January 3 Donald Trump-ordered drone missile assassination at Baghdad airport of top Iranian general and second most important Iranian government official Qasem Soleimani—were little more than a telegraphed shot across Washington’s bows and an attempt at placating the home audience calling for quick vengeance. Whether Iran now uses proxy forces to conduct a ‘long game’ revenge aimed at driving US forces out of the Middle East and perhaps hurting Trump’s 2020 re-election chances is now a key question.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described the missile strikes as a “slap”, while stating that they were “not enough” of a punishment.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Force, has been quoted in state media as saying, “We did not intend to kill. We intended to hit the enemy’s military machinery.” And yet Hajizadeh repeated the spurious claim relayed by Iranian state media that the attack had killed dozens of US soldiers.
An advisor to Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told Reuters that Iran did not directly notify Iraq until shortly before the missile strike—but said Iran passed warnings through other countries. The advisor said both Iraq and the US were warned of the impending strike by one Arab country and one European country, declining to name them. Other media reports have spoken of Denmark as being that country.
“Iran obviously [warned these countries],” the adviser said. “Iran was keen that both the Americans and Iraqis be aware of the strikes before they occurred.”
The news agency could not verify the adviser’s account.
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