Iran launched a barrage of more than a dozen missile at US and coalition forces in Iraq early Wednesday morning in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, but US officials are telling CNN and others that Iran may have been intentionally tried to avoid casualties.
The US has “100% accountability” of all its forces in Iraq, a US defense official told CNN, revealing that there is “no major damage” at either of the two bases that were attacked.
“The attacks used guided missiles and in this instance, Iran appeared to be shooting to miss,” Bloomberg News wrote , citing a US official. CNN reported that there is a “growing belief” in the Trump administration that the Iranian military intentionally aimed at areas not populated by Americans.
Pentagon officials told CNN reporter Jake Tapper that many US military leaders believe that Iran chose “deliberate targets” in order to achieve “minimum damage, maximum warning/effect.”
A State Department official told the media outlet 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 reports that Iran gave “verbal notice” of its plan to attack to Iraq before it opened fire on coalition forces.
Prior warning offers those troops in the line of fire to seek shelter in fortified areas and maximize their chances of survival.
If Iran, despite its bluster following the missile attack, was purposefully avoiding casualties, it could indicate that the attack was designed as a face-saving response, something the Iranian regime could sell back home after its promise to seek revenge without necessarily triggering retaliatory US strikes.
Iran has already signaled that it does not intend to escalate further. After the attack, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted: “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
In the aftermath of the attack, President Donald Trump sent out a tweet that was surprisingly mild and restrained compared to the threats he leveled via social media at Iran.
“All is well!” the president wrote on Twitter.
“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.”