Mystery surrounds US report that anti-missile air defense on way to Iraq

US Patriot batteries could be sent but reports say there are a shortage leading to questions about whether other systems, such as the two Iron Dome batteries the US has could be an interim solution.

The aftermath of an Iranian ballistic missile strike on the Koya headquarters of the KDP-I Iranian opposition group in northern Iraq (photo credit: ZACH HUFF)
The aftermath of an Iranian ballistic missile strike on the Koya headquarters of the KDP-I Iranian opposition group in northern Iraq
(photo credit: ZACH HUFF)
US forces in Iraq have no air defense against Iran’s missiles or against the smaller rockets that Iranian-backed militias have fired at bases housing American forces and at the Green Zone in Baghdad. Now Fox News and others report that Patriot air defense systems could be on the way to Iraq, but the reports also claim there is a shortage of Patriot batteries because they have to be guarding installations in the Gulf and elsewhere. This leads to questions, and a mystery about what might be on the way to Baghdad.
The news that Patriots are going to Iraq was big in Iran, where Press TV highlighted the issue. US media have reported that American forces have no air defenses in Iraq against Iran’s ballistic missiles. This indicates that Tehran or its proxies can attack with impunity. An attack earlier this month at the Al-Assad base resulted in some minor injuries to US forces. A rocket attack by Kata’ib Hezbollah killed an American contractor last month and led to US airstrikes.
In addition, more than 15 other attacks have struck US forces at Q-West, Erbil, K-1 near Kirkuk, Camp Taji and Assad base, as well as the Green Zone and near the airport in the last year. In 2018, rockets were fired near the US consulate in Basra. Each attack shows there is no clear way for the US to defend against the threat.
Fox News says that the Pentagon will deploy “a missile defense system to Iraq,” but only specifically mentions Patriots when explaining what would likely be deployed. In August, Washington purchased two Iron Dome systems, but later reports indicated the system wouldn’t fulfill America's needs for what it calls IM-SHORAD, a short range, maneuverable air defense system. An October report at Janes said the US wants to “componentize” Iron Dome, which could mean blending or changing it. Early reports in February had said the US wanted to deploy for protection.
The US Marines also looked at Iron Dome for protection. In America, Raytheon teams with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in order to produce Iron Dome. Raytheon notes: “The US army considered several available systems and announced its intent to buy two Iron Dome batteries to fulfill an interim capability.” Raytheon debuted its SkyHunter system in cooperation with Rafael. “Based on Iron Dome, SkyHunter can be produced in the US to expand availability and capacity for the US and its allies.”
America's lack of air defense in Iraq and the recent reports indicate that after almost a year of threats, the brass at the Pentagon have decided to actually send something to give US troops in Iraq an air defense capability against a well-known threat.
US envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition James Jeffrey said Thursday that he is working with NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to respond to Trump’s call for a bigger role in Iraq. “We are at an early stage of looking at what NATO can do.”