3 Hours from Alert to Attacks: The Race to Protect U.S. Forces from Iran Strikes

(New York Times) Mark Mazzetti - The alert came to the White House shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, a flash message from American spy agencies warning that an Iranian attack on American troops was almost certain. Three hours later, a hail of ballistic missiles launched from Iran crashed into two bases in Iraq, including Al Asad, where 1,000 American troops are stationed. The missiles destroyed evacuated aircraft hangars. Spy satellites had been tracking the movements of Iran's arsenal of missile launchers, and communications among Iranian military leaders were intercepted by the National Security Agency. No Patriot antimissile systems protected Al Asad base. They had been deployed to other countries in the Middle East deemed more susceptible to Iranian missile attacks. In the days before Gen. Soleimani's death, CIA director Gina Haspel had advised President Trump that the threat the Iranian general presented was greater than the threat of Iran's response if he was killed, according to U.S. officials. Indeed, Haspel had predicted the most likely response would be a missile strike from Iran on bases where American troops were deployed. Though Haspel took no formal position about whether to kill Soleimani, officials who heard her analysis came away with the clear view that the CIA believed that killing him would improve - not weaken - security in the Middle East. Around 5:30 p.m. in Washington, the Pentagon detected the first of 16 short- and medium-range Fateh 110 and Shahab missiles, fired from three locations in Iran. At Al Asad they hit a Black Hawk helicopter and a reconnaissance drone, along with parts of the air traffic control tower. A senior American military official dismissed the idea that Iran had intentionally avoided killing American troops.

2020-01-10 00:00:00

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