Touched off by the US Embassy attack in Baghdad, the Middle East became a high-conflict zone in the opening days of 2020. Further escalating tensions were the US-ordered airstrike that killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and a US Embassy attack in Kenya by al-Shabaab.
In response, thousands of troops across the country are being deployed rapidly into possible combat zones in an effort to support US forces already in the region.
Escalating Tensions & Further Conflict Between US and Iranian Forces in Middle East
On the night of January 7, Iranian forces launched concentrated missile attacks at US bases located in Iraq. Dozens of missiles were directed at two US bases, with Air Base al-Asad being struck by 6 of the explosives.
Iranian forces claimed “dozens” of US dead, but DOD officials had not confirmed any casualties. As of the morning of January 8, officials would only state that they were still assessing damages and casualties, according to a Washington Post article.
The recent missile attack is claimed by the Iranian government and their forces as opposed to non-affiliated fighters in the region. This action is reportedly in direct retaliation for the US airstrike that killed Soleimani.
President Donald Trump declined to address the nation on January 7th and reportedly sent Vice President Mike Pence to brief Congressional leaders about the airstrike from Iran.
Trump tweeted updates on the situation throughout Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning prior to his national address on Wednesday.
Trump Continues to Tweet Foreign Policy & Updates
This latest Twitter update from the President comes on the heels of a series of Tweets over the previous week related to the US airstrike, embassy attack and future actions of US troops in the region.
On January 5, Trump tweeted that his Twitter feed and updates should serve as legal notice to Congress of potential future actions against Iran.
He also implied that he was willing to attack Iranian civilian and cultural sites in a series of tweets on January 4. Targeting cultural sites and civilians explicitly is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
US Rapidly Mobilizes Troops Across Branches in Response to Increased Middle Eastern Threats
In the middle of this war of words on Twitter, service members and military families are experiencing fast deployment notification and execution, with some units leaving in a matter of hours and others waiting for the incoming call to report.
Members of the 82nd Airborne’s Immediate Force Response unit, operating out of Fort Bragg, were given just a few hours notice of their deployment. According to 82nd Airborne spokesperson, Lt. Col. Mike Burns, troops in this unit are given a 2-hour window to report to base, deploying rapidly after that.
“So whether they were on leave, whether they were home drinking a beer, whether they were, you know, hanging out, throwing the kids up in the yard, you get the call and it’s time to go,” he said.
Seven hundred soldiers from this unit deployed within hours of the Embassy attack, with up to 2800 more troops following in the days after Soleimani’s death.
Burns also noted, in an interview with Business Insider, that this was not a typical deployment. Troops were instructed to leave cellphones and other personal electronic devices at home.
Other units are also mobilizing rapidly to shore up defenses in the region. Additional Marines were deployed to the US embassy in Baghdad to provide additional support and force protection.
In addition, as of January 8, 2,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune will also be headed to the Mediterranean as part of the 26th MEU. These troops were already operating in this theater but will cancel planned international training exercises to join the Navy’s 6th Fleet, according to reports from Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Comer, a U.S. 6th Fleet spokesman to USNI News.