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Pence, Pentagon say Iran’s missiles ‘intended to kill Americans,’ not miss targets

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael Pence observe the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade at the White House reviewing stand in Washington D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
January 09, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley remarked on Thursday that Iran’s ballistic missile strikes against U.S. bases in Iraq did not intentionally miss their targets — they were actually intended to kill Americans.

“The ballistic missiles fired at American bases…we believe were intended to kill Americans. We have intelligence to support that was the intention of the Iranians,” Pence said, according to CNN,

Pence said the U.S. response, beyond telling troops to just hunker down during the attack, was to actually reposition many of those troops and military personnel away from the base before the missiles struck.

“I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That’s my own personal assessment,” Milley said in a Wednesday statement also reported by CNN.

Milley went on to say the fact that the U.S. suffered no casualties had “more to do with the defensive techniques that our forces used as opposed to intent” by Iran when it fired the missiles.

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President Donald Trump said in an address Wednesday morning that no Americans were harmed in the attack and the base suffered only minimal damage.

Some administration officials have contended Iran only meant to send a message with its missile strikes, rather than cause significant damage.

Missiles landed near the U.S. consulate in Erbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, though those officials skeptical that Iran wanted to kill U.S. personnel believe they could have targeted the consulate more precisely.

“We could have done it and we didn’t do it,” is the message Iranians appeared to be sending, one unnamed State Department official told CNN. That same official said the U.S. gave Iran the ability to satisfy its calls for revenge for the U.S. killing of Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani but “not escalate by killing Americans.”

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi also said he received “an official verbal message” from Iran shortly before the attack. He said the Iranian warning informed him that the strike would be “limited to the whereabouts of the US military in Iraq, without giving the exact location.”

Despite this claimed plan by Iran not to kill any U.S. personnel, an official with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) offered comments to Iran’s Fars news agency, claiming the strikes resulted in “at least 80 U.S. Army personnel have been killed and around 200 others wounded.”

Iran also claimed its 15 missiles took out 20 sensitive targets and caused damage to numerous drones and helicopters on the al-Asad base in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper did not weigh in on Iran’s intent with the attack, though he did say that the damage was contained to “tentage, taxiways, the parking lot, damaged helicopter, things like that, nothing I would describe as major,” according to Fox News.

“We remain vigilant and will continue to take force protection measures,” Esper said.