A former Pentagon official says Donald Trump's White House asked her to delay and minimize reports that U.S. troops had suffered traumatic injuries from an Iranian missile attack last year in Iraq.
Alyssa Farah, who was press secretary for the U.S. Department of Defense at the time, said the Pentagon initially told Trump there had been no casualties in the Jan. 8, 2020, strike, but she said the White House then applied pressure to make that appear true even after it became clear some of their injuries were serious, reported The Guardian.
"I think where things got shaky was there was an effort from the White House to want to say, this was not successful – the Iranians were not successful in harming our targets in response, and I think that went too far," Farah told the podcast, One Decision, hosted by former CNN reporter Michelle Kosinski and Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of Britain's MI6 intelligence agency. "I think that it ended up glossing over what ended up being very significant injuries on US troops after the fact,."
About 80 percent of the more than 100 American troops injured were able to return to duty within days, but dozens had to be evacuated to Germany and then the U.S. for treatment, and she said the White House was aggravated that the numbers kept rising through the month.
"We did get pushback from the White House of, 'Can you guys report this differently? Can it be every 10 days or two weeks, or we do a wrap-up after the fact?'" Farah said. "The White House would prefer if we did not give regular updates on it. It was this drip, drip of quote-unquote bad news."
The attack was Iran's retaliation for the U.S. drone killing of Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Suleimani five days earlier, which then-U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo said was necessary to prevent an "imminent" threat, which Farah insisted came from "extremely credible" information.
"The 'imminence' is really the word that I think folks would get hung up on how immediate it was," Farah said, adding that she cautioned top Pentagon officials from using as the sole justification for Suleimani's killing. "We had a terrorist on the battlefield in Iraq and an extremely bold thing for this leader to be doing, watching the Green Zone be attacked from the ground in Iraq."