American Legion Daily News Clips 1.9.20

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, January 9, 2020 which is Balloon Ascension Day, National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, National Apricot Day, and National Word Nerd Day*.

* Personally, I like to use dead words. You can find a handy list HERE, including:

Amarulence (bitterness; spite), apanthropinization (withdrawal from human concerns or the human world, aporrhoea (a bodily emanation; an effluvium) or austerulous (somewhat or slightly harsh).

And those are just from the A’s, imagine the fun you can have learning them all! And if you are a young single man, you’ll have even more time, because no one really ever wants to hang out with a guy who uses the word “aporrhoea”. And I would know.

Today in History:

· On January 9, 1493, explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”—in reality manatees—and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or “New World.”

· On January 9, 2007, Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs unveils the iPhone—a touchscreen mobile phone with an iPod, camera and Web-browsing capabilities, among other features—at the Macworld convention in San Francisco. Jobs, dressed in his customary jeans and black mock turtleneck, called the iPhone a “revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” When it went on sale in the United States six months later, on June 29, amidst huge hype, thousands of customers lined up at Apple stores across the country to be among the first to purchase an iPhone.

· 1945: Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the American 6th Army land on the Lingayen Gulf of Luzon, another step in the capture of the Philippine Islands from the Japanese.

· On January 9, 1861, a Union merchant ship, the Star of the West, is fired upon as it tries to deliver supplies to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. This incident was the first time shots were exchanged between North and South, although it not trigger the Civil War. (Editor’s Note: George E. Haynsworth a cadet at the world’s finest military college. The Citadel, was the gunner.)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· WaPo: ‘Launch, launch, launch’: Inside the Trump administration as the Iranian missiles began to fall

· Military Times: Trump says Iran is ‘standing down’ after missile attacks on US troops

· Military.com: Here’s How US and Iranian Forces Compare in the Middle East

· USA Today: ‘Wars cost’: Veterans have a message as tensions reach a 12-year high in the Middle East

· Stripes: Minneapolis VA hospital is cited again for failures in patient suicide

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WaPo: ‘Launch, launch, launch’: Inside the Trump administration as the Iranian missiles began to fall

January 8 at 11:24 PM

The Iranian missile strike on American facilities in Iraq was a calibrated event intended to cause minimal casualties, give the Iranians a face-saving measure and provide an opportunity for both sides to step back from the brink of war, according to senior U.S. officials in Washington and the Middle East.

White House officials were bracing as early as Tuesday morning for Iran to respond to the U.S. killing last week of Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

U.S. officials said they knew by Tuesday afternoon that the Iranians intended to strike at American targets in Iraq, although it was not immediately clear exactly which they would choose.

The early warning came from intelligence sources as well as from communications from Iraq that conveyed Iran’s intentions to launch the strike, officials said.

“We knew, and the Iraqis told us, that this was coming many hours in advance,” said a senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence and diplomatic communications.

“We had intelligence reports several hours in advance that the Iranians were seeking to strike the bases,” the official said.

But others downplayed claims that the Iraqis had such a consequential role. A senior defense official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that if the Iraqis provided warning, it certainly wasn’t hours in advance.

At the Pentagon, the most senior levels of military leadership gathered in a room in anticipation of the Iranian missiles, and soon learned they were coming.

“It was literally like right before” the Iranians launched their missiles, one senior defense official said. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper had convened the meeting with Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with senior civilian leaders of the Defense Department. Esper was pulled out of the meeting when military officials received notification that strikes were underway.

“There was a lot of concern,” the senior defense official said. “It was anxious, wanting to get updates.” Early reports did not mention any U.S. casualties, “so there was some optimism after the initial rounds.”

The advance warning gave military commanders time to get U.S. troops into safe, fortified positions at the bases.

According to military officials, troops at bases in Iraq were ordered into bunkers, donned protective gear and were told to “shelter in place.”

The troops remained in their protected positions for hours, including after the strike. One official said at least some left al-Asad air base in western Iraq before the attack. That base was targeted, along with a facility in Irbil, in northern Iraq.

“It’s not luck that no one got killed,” a second senior defense official said. “Luck always plays a role. But military commanders on the ground made good judgment and had good response.”

In an address from the White House on Wednesday morning, President Trump credited an “early warning system” for helping prevent loss of life. A defense official later said the president was referring to the radar network the military has searching for potential enemy missiles.

At least two sources of intelligence gave the United States time to prepare.

First, there were indications before the launch that Iran was preparing to strike at targets in Iraq, officials said. It was not clear whether that information came from a person or some technical means, such as intercepted communications. A defense official said the U.S. military had “clear indications” of a strike prior to launch from information “internal to [the] U.S. government.” Military officials had assessed that Iran would attempt some kind of retaliation at the end of the official mourning period for Soleimani.

The Pentagon “fully expected a retaliation from Iran,” the senior defense official said. “What that was was the issue,” the official said. “But we fully expected some sort of reaction.”

A second source of warning came from what one official described as technical means. The U.S. military has satellites that can detect a missile shortly after it is launched. U.S. officials alerted allies to the launches shortly after they occurred, according to one Western official.

Iran launched 16 ballistic missiles, including 11 that landed at al-Asad air base and one in Irbil, Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. The missile in Irbil landed in an empty area between the facility and the U.S. Consulate, according to residents who live nearby. It was not clear what happened to the four other missiles.

As a precaution after the strike that killed Soleimani, U.S. military officials deployed a brigade of about 4,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., to the Middle East and also shuffled some forces within the region.

Commanders on the ground, overseen by Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, also moved some service members off small bases in the region and scattered equipment and people on installations to make them harder to hit.

“Let’s get people out of less defensible areas and put them in more easily defended or better-
defended areas,” the senior defense official said, describing the thinking after the Soleimani strike. “But at the same time, let’s not overly mass our personnel as a single target.”

U.S. officials began alerting reporters to the possibility of Iranian strikes beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday, an hour before they occurred. Vice President Pence was scheduled to conduct a television interview that evening but canceled earlier in the day.

In Iran, the regime had positioned itself for a public messaging campaign. Late Tuesday afternoon, Iran transmitted a letter to the U.N. Security Council with a legal basis for military retaliation, but it was not made public, said a diplomat familiar with the document.

Military officials were not sure, once the missiles were launched, which locations Iran had targeted.

It was hard to tell at the Pentagon which bases were under attack “until actual impact on two specific bases,” a senior U.S. military official said. “The attack spread out for more than an hour. . . . It was more than an hour from the first attack to the last attack.”

“This was not a ‘boom’ and all of this hit at once,” the senior defense official said. “This was launch, launch, launch.”

Once the bases were taking incoming fire, there was constant communication among the White House, Central Command and two other combatant commands: Northern Command and Strategic Command, the second senior defense official said. They were called in because of their expertise in monitoring and tracking ballistic missile threats.

After the missiles hit, U.S. military officials began to assess the damage.

Pentagon officials called several partner nations and allies right after the Iranian attack, part of a concerted effort to communicate with them in the wake of the Soleimani strike. While some of them questioned what the U.S. strategy is with Iran after Soleimani was killed, they were supportive and grateful for information Tuesday night, the senior defense official said.

By 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, officials at the White House had briefed Trump and were “able to pretty clearly say we don’t think any Americans are going to be killed,” the senior administration official said. “We knew that no Americans were hurt, either.”

But U.S. officials were not certain there were no fatalities until Wednesday, after service members assessed the wreckage and roll calls were taken. Esper said the missiles hit tents and a helicopter but did not cause major damage.

The lack of casualties gave administration officials more confidence that the Iranians had intended to make a public show of force largely to save face at home, the senior administration official said. The official added that a consensus is building that Iran could have done more damage.

But not all military officials were certain of Iran’s intentions. Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman, told reporters that he assessed Iran had intended to cause material destruction and kill Americans but that an intelligence estimate had not been completed.

“I believe based on what I saw and what I know is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel,” Milley said. “That’s my own personal assessment.”

Asked what he made of Iran’s intentions, the second senior military official said, “You’d have to ask Iran.”

Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived at the White House around 7 p.m. Tuesday. About an hour later, Trump began calling lawmakers, including allies such as Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.). Trump told them that no Americans had been killed in the missile attacks and that a path to negotiations with Iran had now opened, the senior administration official said.

“The president doesn’t want a war, but he doesn’t want to tolerate provocation against American interests,” Graham said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Graham said he hoped that Iran’s attack was “a show of force for domestic purposes.”

“They want a show of force,” he said, “but they want this to end, because they are scared of the president. I hope that is true.”

Matt Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, told aides in a Roosevelt Room meeting Tuesday afternoon that it would take at least two months to understand whether the U.S. strategy was working.

“Our initial reaction has been, this was a domestic effort from the Iranians to save face, not to go to war, so we have proceeded in that vein,” said another senior administration official with knowledge of the analysis.

Esper and Milley returned to the Pentagon about 9 p.m.

Trump had told senior military officials Tuesday evening that he wanted a path to ease tensions, which had been escalating since the strike on Soleimani, the senior administration official said. A way out appeared when Trump’s military advisers told him there was reason to believe the missile strikes were not designed to kill Americans, the official said.

Even with the advance notice, U.S. military officials were still scrambling after the attack to assess the damage and determine Iran’s intentions. U.S. forces in the region remained on high alert after the strikes, but no significant troop movements have been made in Syria or elsewhere, according to military officials.

The second senior defense official acknowledged that officials on Tuesday night intended to limit information released to the public until the extent of the damage and how Trump might respond became clearer.

“We all understood that if the Iranians were to respond next, we owned the shot clock after,” the official said. “So, you need to be very thoughtful, very deliberate.”

The Pentagon and State Department sent staffers to the White House early Wednesday to write Trump’s speech. He made some last-minute additions, including the decision to start his remarks by declaring, “As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.”

“Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world,” Trump said.

A third senior administration official said there was a sigh of relief when Trump agreed to read from prepared remarks and not take questions. Some aides were concerned that Trump might deviate from the precise remarks and misspeak if he made extemporaneous remarks to reporters, the official said.

Some officials acknowledged that Iran was likely to continue attacks via proxies and other means. But there was a growing sense among administration officials that killing Soleimani had sobered Iran up to Trump’s willingness to act. “We actually believe this will be de-escalation,” the senior administration official said. “We’re obviously going to be on alert for proxies with one-off attacks. But we think this worked.”

Military Times: Trump says Iran is ‘standing down’ after missile attacks on US troops

Leo Shane III and Aaron Mehta

19 hours ago

President Donald Trump said Iran appears to be “standing down” after a missile attack on U.S. military facilities in Iraq on Tuesday, but warned that the regime still faces economic sanctions and potential military reprisals if it continues aggression in the region.

“Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred and war,” Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House on Wednesday morning.

“The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime that (their) campaign of terror, murder and mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.”

The commander-in-chief confirmed earlier reports that no U.S. personnel were injured in the missile attacks, which struck servicemember housing units at al-Asad airbase and Erbil International Airport. He also added that “only minimal damage was sustained and our military bases.”

The Iranian military action came in response to an American air strike last week in Iraq that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. Administration officials said that decision was based on evidence that Soleimani presented an imminent threat to U.S. troops and civilian personnel in the region.

Flanked by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Trump in his Wednesday speech said that the American public should be “extremely grateful and happy” that the Iranian response resulted in no casualties, which he credited to the United States’ “great military and equipment” as well as defense budget increases backed by his administration in recent years.

He offered no indication that an American military response was imminent. But he did say he would ask NATO to “become much more involved in the Middle East process.”

“For far too long, all the way back to 1979 to be exact, nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond,” Trump said. “Those days are over. Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world. We will never let that happen.”

Trump also repeated his justification for killing Soleimani — “his hands were drenched in American and Iranian blood” — and also criticized former President Barack Obama for not taking strong enough action against Iran to curb their support of terrorism.

But the president also promised that “the United States is ready to embrace peace with all who are seeking it” and said Iran should work with the broader international community on shared priorities.

Analysts warned that even if the current crisis calms down, tensions between the two countries will remain in place.

Becca Wasser, a senior policy analyst with the Rand Corporation, said Iran may wait a few weeks before resuming lower-level activities, such as attacks by proxy groups, that they have been doing for some time.

But she believes they will ultimately return to the same “malign activities” the U.S. has been concerned about for years.

“It’s taking a pause and walking back from this major crisis, but it doesn’t address any of the underlying issues,” she said of the recent events. “In some ways it’s just putting a Band-Aid over something and not addressing the root cause. It’s only a matter of time before there will be another crisis or something escalates yet again.”

Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, similarly warned against assuming the danger is over.

“We should also keep in mind that this is likely not the extent of the retaliation,” he said. “Some may play out in the days ahead. Other responses may take months or years.”

Military.com: Here’s How US and Iranian Forces Compare in the Middle East

8 Jan 2020

Military.com | By Richard Sisk

The U.S. already has overwhelming force in the Middle East to deal with any threat from Iran, as it has built up air, ground and naval assets steadily since last May, as well as recent preparations for a possible conflict.

By contrast, Iran has relied on "asymmetric" rather than conventional warfare by its own forces and proxies. But it possesses advanced missile and drone capabilities, according to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

After the U.S. executed a deadly strike on Iranian Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani Jan. 3, and Iran retaliated Jan. 7 by launching missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, predictions are flying about what a possible conflict would look like.

At the start of 2019, the U.S. had about 60,000 military personnel in the Middle East, including 5,000 in Iraq and about 2,000 in Syria, before President Donald Trump ordered reductions to less than 1,000 in that country.

They are backed by formidable air assets operating out of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and other bases throughout the region, and by the Fifth Fleet operating out of Bahrain.

Related: Six Missiles Hit Al Asad Air Base in Suspected Iran Strike

Those forces were bolstered by the strike group of the carrier Abraham Lincoln, which was replaced last month by the carrier Harry S. Truman, and by the deployment of about 14,000 additional troops and the dispatch of Patriot anti-missile batteries to Saudi Arabia to guard its oil fields after drone strikes caused major damage last year.

As hostilities in the region spiked recently, culminating in the U.S. strike last week against Soleimani, the U.S. deployed about 3,500 paratroopers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait, put about 200 troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade on notice to deploy and sent six B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the Indian Ocean base of Diego Garcia.

In addition, about 2,200 Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship Bataan, are en route to the region, and elements the 75th Ranger Regiment are expected to deploy.

Last week, about 100 Marines from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, deployed from Kuwait to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as part of the Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command after a siege by protesters.

In a 117-page "Iran Military Power" report in November, the DIA said that Iran’s military consists of parallel forces.

The conventional ground, naval, air and air defense forces currently number about 420,000, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), committed to the defense of the Islamic system of government at home and abroad, number about 190,000, the DIA said.

A particular concern is Iran’s development and production of "a wide range of lethal and non-lethal UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] platforms. Iran has reverse engineered many of these systems based on captured Western UAVs," the report states.

Some of Iran’s newer UAV platforms, including the Shahed 129 and the Mohajer-6, "can be armed and are capable of conducting precision air-to-ground strikes with small guided munitions."

The U.S. has charged that Iran used drones and possible cruise missiles to inflict heavy damage on Saudi oil fields in September.

In releasing the report in November, a senior DIA official, speaking on background, did not give specific numbers but said that Iran in recent years has built up the largest arsenal of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the Middle East — surpassing Israel’s inventory — to deter the U.S. and regional adversaries and make up for shortfalls in its aging air forces.

In addition, Russia’s sale last year of the SA-20c surface-to-air missile system "provided Iran with its first capability to defend itself against a modern air force," the official said.

In his preface to the Iran report, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the DIA director, said, "Iran continues to rely on its unconventional warfare elements and asymmetric capabilities" to counter the strengths of a superior adversary.

"Its substantial arsenal of ballistic missiles is designed to overwhelm U.S. forces and our partners in the region," Ashley said, adding that Iran’s small boats, large inventory of naval mines and anti-ship missiles could also be used "to severely disrupt maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz."