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30 Jan, 2020 17:23

Pentagon still ’working on’ deploying Patriot missiles to Iraq, admits Baghdad’s ‘permission’ hasn’t been granted

Pentagon still ’working on’ deploying Patriot missiles to Iraq, admits Baghdad’s ‘permission’ hasn’t been granted

The US Department of Defense says it is “working with the Iraqi government” to deploy Patriot missiles in the country, but admits it needs Baghdad’s “permission” – weeks after the Iraqi Parliament told foreign troops to leave.

The Pentagon has not yet secured “permission from the host government” to move the missile batteries into Iraq, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper admitted when asked what was holding up their delivery during a press conference on Thursday.

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We need the permission of the Iraqis,” Esper acknowledged before citing other, tactical reasons the missile delivery might be taking longer than expected. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley cited the mechanics of actually transporting the missiles in explaining the delay, pointing out that “a Patriot battalion is not a small organization, it’s relatively large.” However, he said, even if the batteries had been in place when Iran fired a barrage of missiles at the Erbil and al-Asad coalition bases on January 8, he “can’t say for certain” that they would have intercepted the projectiles.

The focus of the press conference was the US troops revealed to have suffered traumatic brain injuries in the Iranian missile strike, which came in retaliation for the US assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani. However, questions have been circulating since that strike as to why – given the sheer quantity of American military ordnance stationed in the Middle East – the Iranian missiles were not shot down.

The Iraqi Parliament voted earlier this month to expel all foreign troops from the country, but the US refused to leave, even as Washington claimed to respect Iraq’s sovereignty. Since the assassination of Soleimani in an airstrike which also killed one of the leaders of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, popular sentiment against the continued US presence – now officially an occupation – has surged, with massive crowds turning out in the streets for a so-called “Million Man March” last week.

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The Pentagon has been considering increasing its missile defense capabilities in Iraq since the Iranian strike. The revelation that some 50 US servicemen received traumatic brain injuries from that barrage – coupled with a rocket attack of unknown origin that scored a direct hit on the US Embassy earlier this week, injuring one person – has apparently pushed that option to the forefront… assuming the Iraqis will let them deploy the missiles, that is.

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