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Trump White House went too far to gloss over ‘significant injuries’ in attack by Iran: Ex-official

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US troops clear debris following Iran’s missile strike against the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq on January 8, 2020. (File photo by AFP)

Former US President Donald Trump’s White House asked the Pentagon to gloss over reports of brain injuries suffered by US forces after Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles against the US-run Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq last year, a former Pentagon press secretary has revealed.

In an interview with One Decision, Alyssa Farah said the attack was the “heaviest several hours of my life,” while recalling that there was an effort from the White House to say that it “was not successful, that the Iranians were not successful in harming our targets in response.”

“And I think that went too far. And I think that it ended up glossing over what ended up being very significant injuries on US troops after the fact,” Farah told the podcast.

On January 8, 2020, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched numerous ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Asad airbase, located in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, and at another US airbase in Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region.

The attacks came in retaliation for the Trump-ordered assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and his companions, five days earlier as their cars were leaving Baghdad International Airport after his arrival in Iraq.

While the US initially downplayed the attacks and claimed none of its service members were injured or killed, the Pentagon said over a month later that 110 troops were diagnosed with “traumatic brain injuries” in the aftermath of the Ain al-Asad attack.

Farah claimed she fended off the pressure from the White House, after Trump first claimed that there were no casualties.

“All is well!” Trump tweeted after the attack, only hours before he insisted that “no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack.”

“We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases,” the former US president added.

Trump ultimately dismissed the injuries as “headaches” and “not very serious,” while dozens of the American casualties had to be evacuated to Germany and then the US for treatment.

“We did get pushback from the White House of, ‘Can you guys report this differently? Can it be every 10 days or two weeks, or we do a wrap-up after the fact?’” Farah said, adding, “The White House would prefer if we did not give regular updates on it. It was this drip, drip of quote unquote bad news.”

While it was only on February 21, 2020 – 44 days after Iran conducted the Operation Martyr Soleimani – that the Pentagon raised the number of casualties to 110, she went on to insist that "my feeling was, if my experience had taught me anything, transparency is always going to be your best friend in that field.”

Since General Soleimani’s assassination, the Islamic Republic has on numerous occasions sworn vengeance on the perpetrators, asserting that "Operation Martyr Soleimani” was only the beginning of its retaliation for the blood of the internationally-revered commander.

Iran has also identified and vowed to pursue 36 individuals, with Trump at the top of the list, in connection with the “terrorist attack,” which also martyred Soleimani’s companions, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

“The US government cannot escape the consequences of this act, and the operators and directors of this terrorist act must be punished and brought to justice for their action,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian asserted last month.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry will pursue the assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis legally and through international channels, pledged Amir-Abdollahian, three days after assuming office.

A piece of legislation passed in the Iraqi Parliament in early 2020 demanded the expulsion of all US-led foreign forces from the country, only two days after General Soleimani and his comrades-in-arms were martyred.

Fed up with the US targeting of top anti-terror forces, Iraq’s resistance groups have also vowed not to lay down their arms or cease their struggle until the expulsion of all American troops from their country.

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