Old and busted, Iranian propaganda edition: We inflicted scores of casualties on the Great Satan to avenge Qassem Soleimani’s death! New hotness: We deliberately avoided casualties to keep from provoking the Great Satan!
Er … what? After initially claiming to have killed 80 “American terrorists” and wounding another 200+ in their missile strikes, an Iranian commander explained that they didn’t intend to hurt anyone. The cognitive whiplash in Tehran must have sent dozens to the hospital:
An Iranian military commander said Thursday that missiles fired at bases used by U.S. troops in Iraq were not aimed at inflicting casualties, in the latest sign that Iran was seeking to avoid any further escalation of hostilities with the United States.
After more than a dozen missiles slammed into the bases early Wednesday local time, both sides for now appear to be stepping back from further conflict.
“We did not intend to kill,” said Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard’s Aerospace Force, according to Iranian state media. “We intended to hit the enemy’s military machinery.”
Even so, the Iranians are sticking with their initial casualty assessment propaganda:
However, he repeated the government’s claim that “tens of people were killed or wounded.” U.S. and Iraqi officials said the strikes caused no casualties.
To put it mildly, this is a bizarre claim. Is Hajizadeh saying his military was incompetent with its use of precision missiles? If the intent was not to cause casualties, shouldn’t his forces have been able to carry out that mission — especially on a facility as large and spread out as the Ayn al-Assad base? Eighty killed and two hundred-plus wounded is a pretty sloppy outcome if the attack was intended to be non-lethal, especially given the circumstances in which a significantly lethal attack might have prompted return fire on Iranian facilities, including its capital.
This is an attempt by the regime to eat its rather pathetic cake and have it, too. They want credit for a limited response internationally while talking up the damage for domestic consumption. This concession to reality suggests, however, that perhaps taking on the Great Satan wasn’t as popular a move as the mullahs might have thought, or perhaps that the people aren’t mourning the loss of their jailer Soleimani as much as Western media has been led to believe. (We’ll have more on that later today.)
Still, Hajizadeh confirms what most assumed yesterday after the pinprick missile strikes in Iraq: Iran didn’t have the stomach for an all-out, overt fight. They deliberately calculated their “retaliation” to be completely symbolic rather than substantive. The death of Soleimani changed the rules and made clear that the US had decided not to play along with the proxy deception that Iran has used for decades. They’ll eventually test that again, but the next time they won’t have Soleimani’s replacement out in the open when they do.
Addendum: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Milley isn’t buying it, although he emphasizes this is a personal opinion:
Milley calls it a "personal assessment," though https://t.co/buSqEP5gnJ
— Jennifer Cafarella (@JennyCafarella) January 8, 2020
He’s more expert than I am, obviously, but if Iran wanted to kill people, they would have shot more than 16 missiles at two very large and largely empty compounds.