Since 2003, the United States has spent billions of dollars developing a spectrum of defensive weapons to stop powerful ballistic missiles from striking U.S. bases and positions. But on Jan. 8, none of those defenses were present when volleys of Iranian ballistic missiles came plunging down on an Iraqi air base that housed U.S. service members.
The attack on Ain al-Asad air base was a predictable response by Iran to the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani days earlier. But the roughly 1,500 U.S. military personnel at the base could only pray that none of the nearly 4-ton missiles landed nearby.
The earthshaking attack highlights how little forethought went into the consequences of killing Soleimani, and how that recklessness might easily have cost the lives of U.S. military personnel. At the very least, the Defense Department ought to have extended to its forces in Iraq the same protection it has provided Saudi Arabia — by covering them with advanced Patriot missile defenses.
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