The inside story of the Iranian attack on Al Asad Airbase
General Frank Mackenzie, commander of US forces in the Middle East, monitored the attack from his headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Walking into this small room off his main operation Center, where he could talk directly to the only two people above him in the chain of command. They bring in secretary defense and a little bit later they brought in the president to this conversation. We're listening to the reports of the missiles flying. You ever been on one like this? I've never been on one like this, where real missiles being fired at our forces and where I thought the risks were so high Iranian attack on al Assad was in retaliation for a stunning US operation. President Trump ordered six nights earlier, a drone strike, which killed Iran's most powerful general Qassim Suleimani. The blood of many Americans is on the hands of the same salamoni. He was this close to an indispensable man as you could find inside Iran, where he went violin. And death followed during the American occupation of Iraq. Sulamani had orchestrated attacks which killed more than 600. U. S troops and, according to Mackenzie, He was planning to do it again. We saw intelligence reports where the same cell Amani was moving various attacks, dreams forward against our forces in Iraq against our embassy and against other bases there. With the imminent perhaps an hour's, perhaps in days, probably not weeks. Until then, the USAID shied away from going after Sulamani for fear, killing such a high ranking government official. Would only provoke Mauritanian attacks. I never take killing anyone is a zone easy decision, but I think the risk of not acting in this case Outweigh the risks of acting So yes, I was good with the decision on January 3rd of last year on airport security camera recorded. Sulamani is arrival in Baghdad on a commercial flight from Damascus. Kensi was watching from a different angle. You have the drones overhead. Do you see him Healthy? Yes, yes. As soon Money's entourage pulled away from the plane. McKenzie gave the kill order to the commander controlling the drones. And then I said, Take your shot when you got it. Missile slammed into both vehicles simultaneously. There's no backslapping. There's no cheering because now I have to prepare to deal with the consequences. The action, General Mackenzie was sure Iran would retaliate, but he didn't know how and neither for awhile. Did the Iranians. I believe they went into a period of this organization because they had lost the officer. Who really spoke up and shaped everything up and told them what they were gonna do. So he's kind of ominous silence. It was a very ominous silence. And what was the first sign that Iran might really be thinking of her? Ballistic missile attack, they began to move their ballistic missiles. The attack was just hours away. When major Alan Johnson got the word. Iran's most powerful weapons were aiming for al Assad. My intelligence officer pulled me aside and Basically said, Sir, I've got some bad news for you. What's up? We have information that Iran is fueling 27 medium range ballistic missiles in their intention is the level this base And we may not survive. This was a completely different threat. Lieutenant Colonel Jim Garland commanded an army battalion at Al Asad. Sprawling air base about 120 miles west of Baghdad, where the U. S operated scores of helicopters, drones and other aircraft. Did the base have any defense against ballistic missiles now, sir? It was such a unprecedented threat. I don't think it was ever calculated. S o the capability to, uh, prevent a ballistic missile attack. It wasn't there. Did you have a plan for what to do? Way came up with the plan. The only real defense against ballistic missile attack is to get out of harm's way.