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Troops Suffering Brain Injuries In Iran Missile Attack May Receive Purple Hearts

U.S. Soldiers walk past a site of Iranian bombing at Ain al-Asad air base, in Anbar, January 13, 2020.
U.S. Soldiers walk past a site of Iranian bombing at Ain al-Asad air base, in Anbar, January 13, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Defense is considering awarding Purple Hearts to U.S. troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI) during the Iranian missile attack of January 8 on bases in Iraq hosting American troops.

CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr on Tuesday reported that the awards were in the final stages of review. The number of service members considered for the award out of the 110 has not been disclosed.

“The Purple Heart submissions remain under review and are being processed in accordance with Defense Department and military service regulations," Defense Department spokesperson Jessical Maxwell told CNN. "Upon completion, service members entitled to receive the Purple Heart will be notified by their leadership," she said.

In 2011 the Department of Defense (DoD) adopted a policy of awarding Purple Hearts -- an award for those seriously wounded or killed in combat -- for service members suffering from traumatic brain injuries which are severe enough to require treatment.

As no casualties for Iran's missile attacks on Al-Assad and Erbil air bases were initially reported, the attacks were seen as symbolic rather than punitive.The Pentagon and Trump downplayed the reports of brain injuries sustained by service members in the Iranian missile attack but later the Pentagon admitted that some 34 service members had sustained "mild concussions". According to the Department of Defense, the number gradually rose in the weeks after the attack to 110.​

The United States targeted and killed Iran's Qods (Quds) Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad Airport on January 3. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described the missile attack in retaliation for Soleimani's killing as "a slap in the face of the United States" and Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif called it a "proportionate act of self-defense".

In the wake of the attack on Iraqi bases and expecting a retaliatory American attack, Iran's Revolutionary Guard on January 8 dawned a Ukrainian airliner over the capital Tehran by firing missiles. The attack which the Iranian authorities claimed was due to "human error" killed all 176 crew members and passengers on board.

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    Maryam Sinaiee

    Maryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.