U.S. officials believe Iran intentionally avoided inflicting casualties in its Tuesday evening missile attack on Iraqi military bases, according to multiple reports.
Iran fired 15 ballistic missiles at two bases housing Iraqi and U.S. troops but caused no casualties. Ten of those missiles hit a base in western Iraq, one hit a base in Irbil in northern Iraqi Kurdistan, and four failed mid-flight.
The attack was framed as revenge for the U.S. killing of Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, the architect of Iranian war strategy in Syria and a driving force behind Iran-backed militias in Iraq.
Pentagon officials told CNN’s Jake Tapper that many in the U.S. military believe Iran chose their targets with the intention of avoiding casualties.
“Deliberate targets, minimum damage, maximum warning/effect,” the officials said. A State Department official told CNN the message of the attack was apparently, “We could have done it and we didn’t do it.”
Another U.S. official confirmed that Iran sought to avoid casualties in comments to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, the Iraqi prime minister’s office said it had received prior notice of the attack.
“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense…targeting base[s] from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched,” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter following the attack. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
On Friday President Trump said at a press conference following the killing of Soleimani that the U.S. did not seek war with Iran.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said. “We do not seek regime change. However, the Iranian regime’s aggression in the region … must end, and it must end now.”