American troops stationed at the Al-Asad air base in Iraq were warned to take shelter well before Iran launched a series of missile attacks on the installation last week, cutting down significantly on potential casualties, according to CNN, which received an exclusive tour of the base’s security facilities.
The network reports that troops were given an advance warning two and a half hours before Iran launched a series of missiles, giving them ample time to scramble into bunkers beneath the air base or catch a flight out of the target zone.
“Most troops were either flown out of the base or sheltering in bunkers by 11:00 p.m. local time Tuesday — shortly before the first of four volleys of missiles began at just after 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday,” officers reportedly told CNN.
“The attack lasted around two hours, only targeting the US areas of the air base, which comprise around a quarter of the Iraqi base,” CNN reported Sunday. “Officers called it a ‘miracle’ that there were no casualties at the blasted site, with missiles landing just a few meters from bunkers, and some essential personnel remaining outside throughout.”
Neither the Americans nor the Iraqis suffered casualties in the attack, though Iran trumpeted the strike as “revenge” for the United States’ decision to kill the head of the Iranian Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, in a drone strike just days before. Soleimani had been, until that fateful Friday evening, Iran’s chief architect of dysfunction in the Middle East, working with allied forces in the region to destabilize areas under American control.
According to the Trump Administration, Soleimani was responsbile for at least 600 American deaths. President Donald Trump justified the drone strike that killed Soleimani by noting that the Iranian general was involved in plans to launch “imminent and sinister attacks” against American targets in Iraq, including, potentially, American embassies. Just days before his death, Soleimani reportedly orchestrated a “protest” at the American embassy in Baghdad, which left the embassy in ruins.
Although the exact timeline of the attacks is new information, the Iraqi Prime Minister said, last week, that the Iraqi government received warnings from Iran hours ahead of the planned missile strikes, and that the Iraqi government, in turn, warned the Americans.
“The first strike hit at 1:34 a.m. and after a brief pause of around 15 minutes, the next volley began. Two more volleys of missiles followed over the next two hours,” CNN said. “At dawn, officers finally emerged from bunkers to discover the full scale of destruction.”
Since then, the tensions between Iran and the United States have died down, but only because Iran has since been forced to admit that its anti-aircraft system misfired the same night of the missile launches against Americans in Iraq, downing a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 130 on board.
Over the weekend, Iranians took to the streets to celebrate Soleimani’s death and to speak out against the Iranian government — a vision in stark contrast to the one Iran had hoped to convey with footage of Soleimani’s funeral. Protests took place in most major Iranian cities, including the capital of Tehran and are ongoing Sunday.