On the evening of January 20th, the Al-Assad airbase to the west of Baghdad was suddenly attacked by ballistic Iranian rockets and missiles. According to a tweet from United States Central Command (CENTCOM), this was a large attack, too.
“At approximately 6:30 p.m. (Baghdad time) time Jan. 20, multiple ballistic missiles and rockets were launched by Iranian-backed militants in Western Iraq targeting al-Assad Airbase. Most of the missiles were intercepted by the base’s air defense systems while others impacted on the base. Damage assessments are ongoing. A number of U.S. personnel are undergoing evaluation for traumatic brain injuries. At least one Iraqi service member was wounded.”
Coming hours after CENTCOM destroyed a Houthi missile that was being prepared for launch into the Gulf of Arden, the base’s defense systems from such attacks were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of rockets and missiles they lobbed at the base. This systemic overload caused them to make contact and injure an unknown number of US troops. Separately, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed they had successfully destroyed “the center of the Zionist regime’s Mossad spy agency.” Reportedly using ballistic missiles, this attack did not impact the US Consulate in Erbil.
In total, this marks the 144th attack on US troops in Iraq and Syria since Hamas’s Oct. 7, 2023. It was also one of the largest attacks so far and the second time ballistic missiles were fired against US and coalition troops in either case.
Al-Assad was a favorite place to strike during OIF/OEF, and when it was attacked in October 2023 with suicide drones, many were unsurprised. Thanks to the quick reactions of troops stationed there, two were shot down, and a third was heavily damaged and recovered by US troops.