New images show damage caused by Iranian missile strike on US military base in Iraq as soldiers clear the compound
- Iran fired missiles at the Ain al-Asad base in Iraq, which houses around 1,500 American and coalition troops
- Bulldozers and fork-lift trucks were today clearing rubble from a compound which was left with huge craters
- No US soldiers were killed or seriously harmed in the missile attack and tensions appear to have calmed
US troops were today clearing rubble and debris from a military base in Iraq which was attacked by Iranian missiles last week at the height of the Middle East crisis.
The barrage on the Ain al-Asad base in Iraq left huge craters in the ground and damaged military trailers in the compound.
New pictures which were released today showed bulldozers and fork-lift trucks clearing rubble from an area the size of a football stadium.
No US soldiers were killed or seriously harmed in the missile attack, but the high tensions prompted a disastrous error by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who shot down a passenger plane just hours later with 176 people on board.
The American presence in Iraq is also under political threat from the Iraqi parliament, which has backed plans to expel foreign troops from the country.
US soldiers and journalists stand by the edge of a huge crater at the Ain al-Asad air base today. The crater was caused by one of the Iranian missiles which were fired at the base in retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani
A US soldier in his military gear walks past a heavily damaged part of the Ain al-Asad base, with a huge pile of rubble lying in an indoor part of the compound
Rubble and debris are seen in a pile at the Ain al-Asad base in Iraq today after the Iranian missile strikes damaged facilities at the base which houses US forces and troops from the US-led coalition against ISIS
A bulldozer picks up rubble and debris at Ain al-Asad air base today, five days after the Iranian missile attack which Tehran said was revenge for the drone strike that killed Soleimani on January 3
The air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province, around 100 miles west of Baghdad, is shared with the Iraqi forces and houses around 1,500 members of the US military and US-led coalition fighting ISIS.
The base was hit by more than 10 Iranian missiles last Wednesday in retaliation for the US drone strike which killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani five days earlier.
The missile strike was Iran’s most direct assault on America since the 1979 seizing of the US embassy in Tehran, which sparked a 444-day hostage crisis.
‘There were more than 10 large missiles fired and the impact hit several areas along the airfield,’ said Col. Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the coalition fighting ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.
He added that the explosions created large craters, knocked over concrete barriers and destroyed facilities that house dozens of soldiers.
Lt Col Antoinette Chase told reporters that the troops were in bunkers on the night of the attacks but could ‘feel everything shaking.’
Today most soldiers walked around without any body armour amid the base’s large tents and street signs written mostly in English.
Six US soldiers stand amid the rubble at Ain al-Asad today. No American troops were killed or seriously harmed in the missile attack, although some were treated for concussion after the blast
A crater caused by the Iranian attack last Wednesday, which came at the height of the Middle East crisis. Donald Trump declared victory in the stand-off after no US troops were harmed in the missile barrage
A US soldier stands by the side of the crater, with vehicles parked next to the surrounding rubble, after a missile attack which marked Iran’s most direct attack on America since the 1979 embassy attack and subsequent hostage crisis
Twisted building materials lie in a pile of debris at Ain al-Asad air base today. US officials say military trailers and other facilities were damaged in the missile attack last Wednesday
A US soldier poses for a picture while bulldozers clear rubble and debris at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar on Monday. Troops received notification the missiles were on their way thanks to early warning systems, US officials say
Donald Trump ‘approved Soleimani killing seven months ago’
Donald Trump authorised the killing of Qassem Soleimani seven months ago, it has emerged.
The presidential order last June approved the principle of killing Soleimani if US nationals were killed by Iranian aggression, administration officials told NBC News.
Then-national security advisor John Bolton is said to have lobbied for the move after Iran shot down a US drone that month, although the idea had been circulating in the White House since 2017.
As a result, an attack on Soleimani was presented to Trump as one of the options when a US contractor was killed by Iranian proxies in Iraq last month.
Although Trump had approved the killing in principle, he still had to give the green light to the specific operation, it is believed.
The drone strike was carried out near Baghdad airport on January 3.
The White House said at the time that Soleimani had been planning an ‘imminent attack’, although some in Congress have questioned that justification.
Trump said on Friday that Iran had targeted the US embassy in Baghdad and was aiming to attack another four US missions before Soleimani was killed.
But yesterday Defense Secretary Mark Esper somewhat distanced himself from Trump, saying attacks on embassies were likely but there was no specific evidence pointing to them.
Although no soldiers were killed, Myles said several were treated for concussions from the blast and are being assessed by professionals.
Myles added that troops received notification the missiles were on their way thanks to early warning systems, and troops were moved out of harm’s way. He described soldiers who lived through the attack as ‘warriors.’
Several more missiles were targeted at a base in the northern city of Erbil, but again failed to kill or seriously injure any US troops. There were varying reports on the number of missiles fired.
Donald Trump declared victory in the stand-off after no US troops were harmed in the missile barage, saying that Iran ‘appears to be standing down’.
Trump had earlier threatened to target Iranian cultural heritage if Tehran struck against US targets, prompting claims he was preparing to commit a war crime.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said after the strikes Iran had ‘concluded’ its response to Soleimani’s death, although Tehran has sent mixed signals on whether there is more to come.
Hours after the missile attack, a Boeing 737 crashed near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Iran initially denied involvement but has since admitted it shot the plane down in error.
It is believed that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards may have mistaken the Boeing 737 passenger jet for an enemy military plane when they launched surface-to-air missiles at the plane.
There were further rocket attacks on the Al-Balad base in Iraq last night, with no immediate claim of responsibility.
Most US forces and contractors have been evacuated from the base, but the Iraqi military said eight missiles wounded two Iraqi officers and two airmen last night.
A US soldier with a camera takes pictures of the rubble after the Iranian missile attack last week, which came at the height of the Middle East crisis following the death of Iran’s top military general
A group of US soldiers stand while bulldozers clear rubble and debris at the base in Iraq today, which was formerly used by American forces in 2003 following the invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein from power
Soldiers clean up with brooms while bulldozers clear rubble and debris from the military base in Iraq today. Bulldozers and fork-lift trucks were today clearing rubble from the area the size of a football stadium
A bulldozer drives into a pile of rubble at the base in Iraq today. The American presence in Iraq is under political threat from the Iraqi parliament, which has backed plans to expel foreign troops from the country
A US soldier stands in front of a damaged part of the compound today as troops set about clearing up the rubble and debris
The plane crash saga has distracted Iran’s regime in recent days, with huge national mourning for Soleimani giving way to angry protests.
A vigil for the crash victims on Saturday night turned into an angry demonstration and police temporarily arrested the British ambassador for being there.
Protesters at the vigil shouted ‘death to liars’ and demanded the resignation and prosecution of those responsible, Fars news agency reported, saying that police ‘dispersed’ them.
Iran today denied claims that security forces had opened fire on protesters.
The Ain al-Asad air base was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
It later saw American troops stationed there amid the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
President Donald Trump visited the sprawling air base in December 2018, making his first presidential visit to troops in the region. Vice President Mike Pence has also visited the base.
Iraq’s parliament last week voted to expel foreign forces from the country, including some 5,200 American troops, who have helped local soldiers beat back jihadists since 2014.
Donald Trump has threatened Iraq with ‘sanctions like they’ve never seen before’ if Baghdad follows through with the plan.
Soldiers walk inside an indoor part of the compound which was badly damaged by last week’s Iranian missile barrage
Large pieces of debris are strewn on the ground at the base in Iraq today. Donald Trump declared victory in the stand-off after no US troops were harmed in the missile barage, saying that Iran ‘appears to be standing down’
Rubble around a small crater at the compund, with vehicles and a larger pile of debris behind it. Tehran has sent mixed signals on whether there is more to come, but has since been distracted by the fall-out from the Ukrainian passenger jet disaster
Structures at the military base are seen bent out of shape after the missile attack today as soldiers and journalists inspect the damage from the Iranian show of force
Bulldozers work at the base in Iraq today. No US soldiers were killed or seriously harmed in the missile attack, but the high tensions prompted a disastrous error by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who shot down a passenger plane
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