- Several US officials, according to multiple reports, suspect that Iran was shooting to miss in Wednesday morning’s missile attack on US and coalition forces in Iraq, meaning that they were not looking to produce casualties.
- Initial reports indicated that there were no casualties among US, Iraqi, or other partner forces at the targeted installations.
- A Pentagon official told CNN that Iran appeared to have chosen “deliberate targets” to achieve “minimum damage, maximum warning/effect.”
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Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at US and coalition forces in Iraq early Wednesday in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, but US officials told CNN and other news outlets that Iran might have intentionally tried to avoid casualties.
Citing a US official, Bloomberg News reported that “the attacks used guided missiles and in this instance, Iran appeared to be shooting to miss.” CNN reported that there was a “growing belief” in the Trump administration that the Iranian military “intentionally missed areas populated by Americans.”
A Pentagon official told the CNN reporter Jake Tapper that many US military leaders thought Iran chose “deliberate targets” to achieve “minimum damage, maximum warning/effect.”
A State Department official told CNN that the message behind the attack appeared to be: “We could have done it and we didn’t do it.”
In addition to speculation about Iran’s targeting, Bloomberg reported that Iraq said Iran gave it “verbal notice” of its plan to attack coalition forces. Warnings offer those troops in the line of fire an opportunity to seek shelter in fortified areas and maximise their chance of survival.
If Iran, despite its bluster following the missile attack, was avoiding casualties, it could indicate that the attack was designed as a face-saving response after its promise to seek revenge – something it could sell back home without necessarily triggering retaliatory US strikes.
Iran has signalled that it does not intend to escalate further. After the attack, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif,tweeted: “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
A tweet from President Donald Trump was surprisingly mild and restrained compared with the threats he has recently leveled at Iran via social media.
“All is well!” the president tweeted late Tuesday.
“Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”
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