Donald Trump’s White House asked the Pentagon to play down and delay reports of brain injuries suffered by US troops from an Iranian missile attack on Iraq last year, according to a former defense spokeswoman.
Alyssa Farah said she fended off the pressure from the White House, which came after Trump had first claimed there had been no casualties and then dismissed the injuries as “headaches” and “not very serious”. More than 100 U.S. troops were ultimately diagnosed as having suffered traumatic brain injuries in the missile attack on two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops on January 8, 2020, launched by Tehran in retaliation for the US drone killing of Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Suleimani five days earlier. Roughly 80% of the American casualties from the missile attack were able to return to duty within days, but dozens had to be evacuated to Germany and then the US for treatment.
Farah, who went on to work in the White House, said that when Trump claimed there had been no casualties in the wake of the attack it was “true at the time that we gave those facts” to him. She described the attack as the “heaviest several hours of my life” in an interview with a new podcast, One Decision, hosted by former CNN journalist Michelle Kosinski and the former head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, Sir Richard Dearlove.
She said it was Pentagon policy to release the facts as they arrived and were verified, and as a result the total reported number of casualties climbed throughout January 2020, irritating the White House.
Here's the problem the @StateDept is facing: despite what they're saying, the US no longer has any leverage over the Taliban. All while the Taliban is actively blocking points of departures that could have been used to evacuate stranded Americans & Afghans https://t.co/ovkwoC3IJi
— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) September 8, 2021
The killing of Suleimani as his car was leaving Baghdad airport on his arrival in Iraq on January 3, 2020, was highly controversial. U.S. legal opinion is divided on the Suleimani strike. Some scholars said it was justified by the Iranian general’s role across the region of orchestrating attacks on the U.S. and its allies. Others argue that does not provide sufficient cause under international law, because there was no declared state of war between the U.S. and Iran.
Four days before the airstrike a mob of Shia militiamen and their supporters breached the compound of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad before being persuaded to withdraw. After Suleimani was killed the then US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, claimed there was evidence Suleimani was planning an “imminent” attack against U.S. embassies and bases, and Trump said later there was a plot “to blow up our embassy”. But members of Congress said there was no such claim in their intelligence briefing on the drone strike. Pompeo later said the strike was aimed at “deterrence”.
— Alyssa Farah, former Pentagon spokeswoman:
The White House had asked Pentagon to downplay and delay reports of brain damage from Iran's missile strike on Ein al Assad military base in Iraq.
Alyssa described Iran's missile strike as "the heaviest hours of her life". pic.twitter.com/8bzzAqtPEG
— AryJaey 🇮🇷 (@AryJaey) September 9, 2021
Farah insisted there was “extremely credible, thoroughly planned potential to harm the US and coalition partners”.