Red Diamond Volume 11 Issue 1    Iranian Missile Strike: Implications of Iran’s Response

Red Diamond Volume 11 Issue 1 Iranian Missile Strike: Implications of Iran’s Response

by Colin Christopher , TRADOC G-2

Iran’s national goals are to expand the reach and
relevance of its brand of Shi’a Islam across the
Middle East and to assume a position of regional
hegemony in line with its long history. Tehran views
US influence in the region as its foremost barrier to
these goals, and to secure them relies on the global use
of proxy groups, terrorism, coercion, and the threat
and employment of armed force to target the United
States and its partners and allies. One of Iran’s primary
tools of coercion and force projection is its missile
arsenal, which is characterized by increasing numbers of
relatively sophisticated systems with improved accuracy,
range, and lethality. Recently, Tehran employed its
ballistic missiles in a strike against US installations in
Iraq. Though the operation was clearly symbolic, Iran’s
response showcased advanced capabilities revealing a
more capable adversary with an ability to challenge the
US Army.
Overview of the strike
On January 7, 2020, Iran launched multiple short range
ballistic missiles (SRBMs) from three locations within
Iran against US Forces in Iraq. The missiles struck two
airbases; Ayn Al Asad in western Iraq and an airbase

at Erbil in northern Iraq. Al Asad airbase serves as an
operational center for US military operations in western
Iraq and Erbil is a staging site for special operations,
including operations in northern Iraq and Syria. The
attack, code named Operation “Martyr Soleimani” by
Iran, was in retaliation for the US drone strike that
killed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods
Force (IRCG-QF) Commander, Major-General Qassem
Soleimani.1
Iran launched sixteen SRBMs in two waves about an
hour apart. Of the sixteen missiles launched, eleven
hit Ayn Al Asad airbase, one hit Erbil’s airbase, and
four missiles malfunctioned.2 Iran claims to have
conducted “electronic war” during and after the
strike, likely indicating they were attempting to jam US
counter-strike assets.3 Diplomatic channels provided
US forces warning prior to the strikes, which limited
US casualties.4 Post-strike analysis revealed damage to
structures, equipment, cratered runways, and traumatic
brain injuries to dozens of US service members.5 The
lack of US fatalities, combined with the early political
warning, led to relatively rapid de-escalation, and since
the attack both sides have continued tense diplomacy.

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