US officials have confirmed that they were given advance notice Tuesday night before Iranian missile strikes against bases hosting US troops, part of what is seen as a concerted effort to avoid casualties.
Iranian FM Javad Zarif said the advance notice was provided to the Iraqi government, citing respect for Iraqi sovereignty. Iraq told the US, giving time to get people out of the way of the attack.
In addition, there are reports that the Iranians were directly communicating with the US through multiple sources, including the Swiss Embassy in Iran, to assure them that the attacks were the extent of their retaliation and that they are done.
President Trump confirmed that Iran is “standing down” after the attack, though his comments were mostly boilerplate about the Iran nuclear deal, and he accused President Obama of providing the funds Iran used to buy the missiles fired on Tuesday.
Trump and Zarif had both pointed to deescalation on Tuesday night in Tweets, with the takeaway that Iran considered what they did proportionate, and that the US could live with that since there were no casualties.
Other analysts suggested that some Iranian missiles were deliberate duds “designed to miss,” giving Iran a chance to play up the attack domestically, in reaction to calls for revenge after the death of Qassem Soleimani, without doing anything so serious that it would escalate the fight any further. This was supported by photos of unexploded ballistic missiles inside Iraq.
This restored some Iran deterrent capability, and provided the US with an off-ramp to avoid further tit-for-tat escalation. It seems the US is taking that, even if Trump is calling for more NATO involvement and more sanctions. That rhetoric returns the US to mostly an ex ante state, however, and so the US can also be said to be standing down, even if it is in Trump’s usual, bellicose manner.