U.S. President and Vice President in Situation Room, White Houset
U.S. President and Vice President in Situation Room, White HousetReuters

US intelligence services gave the White House a few hours' warning before the Iranian missile attack on Iraq, the New York Times reported today.

On Tuesday, at 2:00 PM, an urgent message, sometimes referred to in professional jargon as a "squawk", was issued. Throughout the day, warnings of possible scenarios of the Iranian response to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani arrived. Starting with missile and rocket launches, to attacks against American civilians in the Middle East, and even the possibility that hundreds of militia fighters would storm the Ein al-Assad base in western Iraq.

That specific warning spurred Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien to the basement situation room in the West Wing in the White House. Shortly thereafter, President Donald Trump joined them after ending a meeting with the Greek Prime Minister.

Three hours later, Iran launched more than 15 ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases, including Al Ain Assad itself, which houses about 1,000 American troops. The attacks ended without casualties, while military officials considered the response options in the event of casualties, which could have led to widespread conflict.

"The early warning provided by intelligence helps explain in part why the missiles exacted a negligible toll, destroying only evacuated aircraft hangars as they slammed into the desert sand in barren stretches of the base," said the Times. "No Americans or Iraqis were killed or wounded, and Mr. Trump, who indicated to advisers he would prefer to avoid further engagement, was relieved."