West News Wire: Iran’s missiles have become a more immediate threat than its nuclear program. For decades, Iran’s rockets and missiles were wildly inaccurate.

However, at Al Asad, “they hit pretty much where they wanted to hit,” says Kenneth (Frank) McKenzie, Jr., a Marine general from Alabama, who heads U.S. military operations across the Middle East and South Asia.

McKenzie adds that they [Iran] “can strike effectively across the breadth and depth of the Middle East. They could strike with accuracy, and they could strike with volume.”

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McKenzie’s military experience with Iran has been perilous and bloody.

When he was a young officer, two hundred and forty-one marines were killed in the 1983 suicide bombing of U.S. peacekeepers in Beirut. It was the largest loss of marine lives in a single day since the battle of Iwo Jima, in the Second World War.

The Reagan Administration blamed Iran and its then nascent proxies in Hezbollah. Almost four decades later, McKenzie believes that Tehran’s nuclear capabilities were far from the only danger it now poses.

As Trump was the president, hostilities between the United States and Iran escalated. They peaked in 2020, when Trump ordered the assassination of General Qassem Suleimani, the revered head of Iran’s Quds Force, the élite wing of the Revolutionary Guard.

As Suleimani arrived in Baghdad to meet local allies, McKenzie called in an M-9 Reaper drone to fire four Hellfire missiles at the General’s convoy. Suleimani and nine others were shredded in this attack.

Five days later, Iran fired eleven ballistic missiles—each carrying at least a thousand-pound warhead—at Al Asad Airbase. U.S. intelligence had tracked Iran’s deployment of the missiles, giving the Americans a few hours to evacuate their warplanes and half of their personnel.

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Lieutenant Colonel Staci Coleman, the commander of an air expeditionary squad, had to decide which of her crew of a hundred and sixty should leave and who was “emotionally equipped” to stay.

It is worth to mention that no American military personnel had been killed by an enemy air strike since 1953, during the Korean War.


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