Just what message did Iran intend to communicate with its missile attack on two Iraqi bases last night? “This was a very carefully calibrated attack on the part of Iran,” CBS analyst and former Joint Chiefs vice chair Admiral Sandy Winnefeld explained. It was calibrated not to start a war Iran knows it would lose and lose badly, Winnefeld told CBS This Morning, while giving the mullahs just enough to claim victory and depart the field, so to speak:
WINNEFELD: First, what did they use? They used increasingly accurate ballistic missiles, either the Kayn-1 or the Fateh 110, which other than those that might have gone astray, which always happens. Probably hit pretty close to what their targets were. So the second thing is, what were their targets? This is a big, sprawling air base, mostly desert. They could have targeted these missiles into remote areas to avoid any possibility that an American could be killed, or they might have done what we would have done, and that is perhaps target aircraft on the ramp, but not barracks or places where there would be a lot of people.
And then to your question, that third thing is: what were they trying to accomplish? Well, there were really four key audiences here. The first is the United States. “Hey, we can hit you guys, and by the way we didn’t hurt anybody, so please don’t start a war with us — that we would lose.” Second audience, of course, is the internal Iranian audience. They can say anything they want to to that audience. “We did this hard revenge, we killed 80 Americans,” which of course isn’t true, but they have that internal message.
The third audience is the international community. “Hey, we did this legally and in self-defense, so please don’t come after us there,” and the fourth audience is the regional audience. “Please don’t help the Americans retaliate for this, and by the way, why don’t you kick them out of the region.” So it was very carefully calibrated, and we’ll see what happens next.