US defense chief says Iran intended to kill US soldiers

Mark Esper spoke to the press about Iran's attacks on bases after meeting with US officials

Kasim Ileri   | 09.01.2020
US defense chief says Iran intended to kill US soldiers


Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles overnight from three locations inside the country at two Iraqi bases where U.S. soldiers are deployed, but there were no casualties due to the military’s early warning systems, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday.

Esper spoke to the press at the Pentagon after meeting with U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and members of the House of Representatives and Senate.

“Iran last night sent 16 short-range missiles from three different regions to two bases where the U.S. and coalition soldiers are stationed. Eleven missiles hit the Ain al-Asad base and one hit the Erbil base. Some warehouses, parking and a helicopter were damaged at al-Asad base.”

Four of the missiles malfunctioned and failed to hit their targets, he added.

Esper did not answer questions about whether the U.S. and Iraq were informed before the attack.

He said the attacks were not random shots.

“Based on what I've seen, it was an attack with the intention of causing both structural damage and personnel loss.”

The attacks were carried out by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Iran said they came in response to the U.S. killing last week of the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, in an airstrike outside Baghdad International Airport.

The airstrike followed a series of tit-for-tat recriminations between the U.S. and Iran-backed forces that began with the killing of an American contractor at a U.S. base in Iraq late last month.

The U.S. retaliated with airstrikes on the Iran-backed militia it says was responsible for conducting the attack, killing dozens.

The U.S. embassy in Baghdad was then attacked Tuesday last week by a group of enraged militiamen and demonstrators.

U.S. officials have placed blame for the attacks on the U.S. embassy and base squarely on Soleimani's shoulders, claiming if the airstrike that killed him was not carried out, hundreds more American lives would have been lost.

Soleimani’s death marked a dramatic escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have often been at a fever pitch since President Donald Trump chose in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw Washington from a 2015 nuclear pact world powers struck with Tehran.

*Writing by Davut Demircan

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