National Public Radio (NPR) has published one of the first satellite images showing the damage from the Iranian missile strike at the Ain Assad Air Base located in Al Anbar Governorate of western Iraq, which hosts US and British troops.
The images, taken by Planet Labs and shared with NPR via the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, show at least five sites on the base heavily damaged from the Iranian missile strike on Tuesday night.
David Schmerler, an analyst with the Middlebury Institute, told NPR that the high high-resolution satellite images of the base taken after the attack showed at least five damaged structures. "Some of the locations struck look like the missiles hit dead center," Schmerler said.
Jeffery Lewis, a professor at Middlebury Institute, tweeted a before and after snapshot of one of the impact areas of the base. It appears two Iranian missiles hit a group of tents next to three helicopters.
Twitter handle Yuri Lyamin shared a Plant Labs satellite image of the base that appears to be dated Jan. 8, 2020, but doesn't have the markings from Middlebury Institute and is a much broader view.
It appears Lyamin circled nine points of interest where possible damage was sustained from the Iranian missile strike.
President Trump tweeted Tuesday night after the attacks and said: "All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well-equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning."
Schmerler said the Iranians might have targeted structures on the base that would minimize the loss of human life to thwart a retaliation strike by the US. "The buildings we're tallying now seem to be used for storing aircraft," he said. "There are other structures at the airbase that would be exclusively for people, so maybe they intended to strike sites with equipment over people."
I’m not an Iran expert. But I am a military analyst. When I see the impact points of Iran’s strike on Asad air base, I don’t see purely symbolic strikes designed to avoid casualties, as some have speculated. The strikes appear to target the base’s military capability. pic.twitter.com/lx4nOTyrO4— Dara Massicot (@MassDara) January 8, 2020
As we noted on Wednesday, Iran has taken President Trump's playbook in Syria: launch missiles and purposely miss their intended targets.
Iran has superior missile technology that can hit whatever they want – this could be in an attempt to save face as a public relations event for its citizens while attempting to de-escalate the situation and avoid war.
"The live situation was optically quite dramatic, but the important thing to focus on is the no-human-casualty dimension, which gives ample space to de-escalate the situation," said Salman Ahmed, chief investment strategist at Lombard Odier Investment Managers.
"The Trump factor is the random factor, but what's visible is that no one wants war, and that's what markets are focusing on."