Former Army Chief Sir Peter Wall: Nature Of Overnight Iranian Attacks 'Surprising'

The former Chief of the General Staff commanded the 1st (UK) Armoured Division when it was deployed to Basra, Iraq in 2003.

A former head of the Army, General Sir Peter Wall, said he was surprised by the nature of Iran's overnight attacks on military bases in Iraq.

The two bases targeted at Al Asad and in Erbil housed British and American personnel, with the Ministry of Defence confirming there were no UK or US casualties.

Iranian State TV announced Iran's Revolutionary Guard claimed responsibility.

General Wall told Forces News: "I think perhaps the surprising thing about it is it's not one of those deniable things that runs on for a bit, perhaps done by militias under Iran's influence.

"But it was a more traditional engagement with ballistic missiles fired into these two airfields."

Having commanded the 1st (UK) Armoured Division when it was deployed to Basra in 2003, General Wall stated his belief that the UK needs a "tight handle" on force protection, and the risks facing troops in Iraq.

"Clearly we're all concerned for the safety and welfare of British soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere, because Iran's writ runs wider than just Iraq in the case of places where British soldiers are deployed."

Soldiers, Civilians, and Coalition forces deployed in Iraq in support of  Operation Inherent Resolve participate in a Danish Contingency March at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq
Coalition forces in Al Asad Air Base, one of the sites targeted by Iran, pictured in 2019 (Picture: US Department of Defense).

General Wall said there is "quite a high level of unpredictability" in the current situation: "Nobody saw this attack against Soleimani coming, and who knows what the Iranians are going to do next, and where they're going to do it."

US President Donald Trump has since said Iran is "standing down" following the attacks, and stated new sanctions will be enforced.

Addressing the Commons on Wednesday, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces.

"Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation," he said.

According to General Wall, the Iranians have for many years "trod a fine line between being a very significant and bold irritant and avoiding the full weight of American military power against them, which they know they can't really withstand.

"Let's be clear - if that were ever unleashed, it would cause an immense amount of suffering and all sorts of reverberations around the region which we must avoid at all costs," he added.

When asked what the British military might do next, General Wall told Forces News he expects the UK to look to support actions taken by America's forces in the days and weeks ahead.

"I think there's the question of the extent to which we are going to overtly see ourselves supporting future American actions, and of course it will be easier to do that if we can get more warning and visualise what those might involve.

"But certainly from a UK military point of view I imagine, from having spoken to all my former colleagues recently, that we're keen to remain as aligned to the US military and indeed other coalition military, as we can."