Damage to Al Asad air base 160120 CREDIT PLANET LABS must leave the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

What Was Iran's Intention When Attacking Iraq's Al Asad Air Base?

Damage to Al Asad air base 160120 CREDIT PLANET LABS must leave the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Iran was most likely targeting a barracks and a dining area in its attack on an Iraqi military base housing coalition troops, an expert has said.

Last week, Iran fired ballistic missiles at two sites in Iraq - Al Asad air base and a site in Erbil.

The US military says 11 American soldiers were injured in the attack at Al Asad, after previously denying any of its personnel were hurt.

The Ministry of Defence now says British personnel were not present at the base at the time of the attack.

Margaret Croy, from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, was part of a team that obtained satellite images showing damage to Al Asad air base.

Prior to the US admitted its troops were hurt, Ms Croy, a satellite image analyst, told Forces News pictures of the site suggested the attack was probably aiming to cause casualties, rather than damage to infrastructure.

"It's very difficult to assess intentionality," she said.

"Originally we thought the missiles originally struck areas housing aircraft or other technology - now we understand that in fact, the missiles struck the barracks of drone operators and a dining hall.

"If you're targeting a dining hall or barracks, you would imagine that would have an impact that would cause casualties, whereas targeting an aircraft storage area may or may not have that impact.

"It does seem as if those areas that were targeted were expected to be populated."

WATCH: Satellite images show 'at least seven to eight' areas of impact.

Al Asad air base, which is 100 miles west of Iraqi capital Baghdad, was one of two bases hit by Iranian missiles.

It is a key base for the US-led coalition in the country, of which the UK is a member.

Around 1,500 American military personnel are based there, as well as hundreds more from other coalition nations.

The other base targeted in the attack was in Erbil, in Iraq's northern Kurdish region.

The US said 15 missiles were launched - 10 hitting Al Asad, one hitting Erbil and four missing their targets.

Ms Croy said she believes the missiles were "quite accurate".

"Looking at the satellite images [of Al Asad air base], we see at least seven to eight sites of impact," Ms Croy said.

"We understand that they were ballistic missiles... based on the impacts that we can see, that are often centred on top of a roof, which often destroyed a whole building.

"It seems as if these missiles are quite accurate, so the Iranians are able to successfully target and strike facilities."

The attacks were launched in response to a US air strike that killed top Iranian military officer, General Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.

The US has more than 5,000 troops in Iraq.

The UK has around 400 non-combat personnel in the country as part of a US-led coalition, training the Iraqi and Kurdish Security forces to fight so-called Islamic State (IS).

Cover image: Planet Labs, Inc.

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