U.S. forces were able to seek protection before a series of ballistic missiles struck two Iraqi bases Jan. 7 thanks to an American early warning system, President Trump said Wednesday.
“No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that worked very well. I salute the incredible skill and courage of America’s men and women in uniform,” he said in remarks at the White House.
“Minimal damage” was sustained at Al Asad Air Base and territory near Erbil, where U.S. and coalition forces are hosted, Trump said. Iran has claimed responsibility for firing more than a dozen missiles at the two sites, and said it was a response to the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, a major general and leader of the Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah.
“The American people should be extremely grateful and happy that no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime,” Trump said.
The specific early warning system that was used has not been revealed. A defense official confirmed to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that “U.S. early warning systems detected the incoming ballistic missiles well in advance, providing U.S. and coalition forces adequate time to take appropriate force protection measures.”
Trump added that “Iran appears to be standing down,” and that the U.S. government wants the Iranian people to have “a great future, one you deserve.” He called for additional economic sanctions on Tehran until the government “changes its behavior,” but his remarks appeared to indicate that the potential for more immediate conflict was decreasing.
He called for NATO to become “much more involved in the Middle East process.” In a readout of a Wednesday call between the president and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, an alliance spokesperson said the leaders “agreed that NATO could contribute more to regional stability and the fight against international terrorism.”