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The Iranian threat: US deployed the Patriot missile system in Iraq

BAGHDAD, (BM) – According to Pentagon officials, anti-aircraft missile units equipped with Patriot air defense systems, as well as two other short-range systems, are already located at Ain al-Assad airbase in western Iraq, learned BulgarianMilitary.com according publication in Defense News.

Read more: A new missile strike was carried out in Baghdad while US withdraws its troops

It was here that in January 2020, Iran, during Operation Martyr Suleimani, launched a massive missile attack against US forces and the coalition, and also attacked the US military base in Erbil. Then Fateh-110 ballistic missiles were used, as well as Qiam 1 missiles, equipped with separable warheads and an active jamming system for enemy detection and guidance radars.

According to an anonymous source in the US military, at the current time, Camp Taji has deployed a short-range missile defense system (which is not specified in the article) at the American military base Camp Taji.

Over the past few months, Americans have gradually strengthened the group of anti-aircraft missile forces in Iraq in order to provide more effective cover for their units and units subjected to constant missile attacks.

Shortly after Iran launched a massive strike with short-range ballistic missiles against US troops in Ain al-Assad in January, questions arose about the lack of air defense systems at US bases. But there has been some tension between Washington and Baghdad for a long time, and so the United States took time to negotiate with Iraqi leaders, as well as to search for anti-aircraft missile units that could be relocated to Iraq.

Prior to Iran’s missile strikes, US military leaders did not believe that such systems were needed in Iraq more than in any other places around the world where such strikes occur more often.

Read more: Iraqi F-16s have conducted several strikes on the Islamic State’s positions

Currently, anti-aircraft missile systems have been deployed, are on alert and ready to open fire, as senior US officials warn that the threat of missile attacks from the rebels, which Washington associates with Tehran, remains.

General Mark Millie, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that for this reason, hundreds of soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the 82nd US Airborne Division remain in Iraq.

He clarified that only one battalion was allowed to return to the place of permanent deployment in Fort Bragg (North Carolina), “partly because the situation with Shiite militias and Iran is not 100% settled.” He added that “they will continue to fulfill their mission until, in our opinion, the threat is reduced.”

This week, several Iranian missiles fell near the site of an American oilfield services company in southern Iraq. This was the first such attack in recent months aimed at US energy interests, Defense News writes. The Americans have already left this place.

US President Donald Trump said at the beginning of last week that his administration had received information about Iran’s plans to deliver another blow in the near future. He did not provide any details, but warned Tehran that if US troops were attacked by Iran or its proxies, “Iran will pay a very high price for this.”

Other officials have said in recent weeks that there has been an increase in intelligence data indicating a possible large-scale missile attack. However, this week they reported that the threat seems to have diminished as Iran and Iraq are largely affected by the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

Read more: A missile strike was carried out on a US-led coalition military base in Iraq

Nevertheless, US military leaders argue that U.S. forces and coalitions need additional protection because threats from pro-Iranian forces remain, and it is even more unclear to what extent they are being controlled from Tehran – especially now, during the pandemic.

In early January, with the help of US unmanned aerial vehicles in Baghdad, the commander of the Iranian special forces (Al-Quds) Kassem Suleimani was killed. UAVs rocketed a convoy leaving Baghdad airport.

Earlier there was a meeting of the general with the leaders of the local Shiite militia. At least eight people became victims of the shelling, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Iran-supported militias in Iraq. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, accused the latter of attacking the US embassy in Baghdad on December 31.

The assassination of Suleymani led to an Iranian ballistic missile strike at US bases, resulting in more than 100 American soldiers injuring various degrees of severity.

Iraqi leaders were very unhappy with the killing of al-Muhandis, and numerous protesters in that country called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. These circumstances made the negotiations on the Patriot systems very sensitive.

In addition, General Frank Mackenzie, head of the Central Command of the US Armed Forces (CENTCOM), which also includes the Middle East, said it was difficult to deploy the Patriots and other anti-aircraft missile systems to Iraq. In practice, this meant that Mackenzie had to pick up air defense systems / air defense systems from other places where they were also urgently needed. Pentagon officials have never revealed where exactly the complexes were transferred to Iraq.

Read more: A large-scale missile attack on a US military base in Iraq

According to Defense News, medium and long-range anti-aircraft missile systems were deployed in parts of Iraq, and it took extra time to dock individual elements of the air defense system in new position areas and test the entire complex as a whole.

Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries are deployed at bases in al-Assad and Irbil. In addition, the so-called C-RAM army system is used, which is capable of destroying small missiles and mines fired from mortars in flight. In addition, a more advanced Avenger air defense system (Avenger) has been deployed, capable of repelling the attacks of rockets at low altitudes and aircraft, including UAVs and helicopters.

Currently, there are more than 6,000 US troops in Iraq. While some units and parts of the US Armed Forces have been withdrawn from this country over the past few months, others, on the contrary, have been relocated to deploy and operate new air defense / missile defense systems.

Donald Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018 and has since steadily introduced new U.S. sanctions against Iran, which were previously relaxed or canceled in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

At the end of last month, the administration imposed sanctions on 20 Iranians and companies for supporting the Shiite militia, whose representatives are responsible for attacks on units and units of the US Armed Forces.

“The C-RAM system is a form of tactical air defense. It is designed to protect against missiles, artillery and mortar attacks by destroying the corresponding ballistic targets during their flight,” Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, explained to Gazeta.ru.

Read more: US and UK citizens were killed in Iraq, US air strike near Syrian border

As for the M1097 Avenger system (Avenger), the source said, this is an American self-propelled short-range anti-aircraft missile system located on the chassis of an HMMWV all-terrain vehicle. The complex was developed by the American company Boeing Aerospace Company in conjunction with General Electric. M1097 is designed to engage air targets at heading courses and catch up at altitudes of 0.5-3.8 km and ranges of 0.5-5.5 km.

On it, Makienko said, two containers of four FIM-92 Stinger missiles, a 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine gun and a radar were installed. The delivery kit includes a remote control. The detection system is all-weather and provides target detection under any visibility conditions due to the built-in thermal imager.

“Based on the analysis of the performance characteristics of the air defense systems involved, and this is not just about the Patriot, it’s clear that the United States intends to create a deeply echeloned anti-aircraft missile defense system in Iraq that would allow them to minimize possible losses in manpower and technology,” concluded Makienko.

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