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U.S. says it helped Israel take down incoming drones launched by Iran

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Iran attacked Israel yesterday with a barrage of drones and missiles. This came in the wake of a strike on Iran's embassy compound in Damascus on April 1. It killed a senior Iranian commander and six other officers, and is an attack that U.S. officials have linked to Israel. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins us now in the studio. Good morning.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

RASCOE: So Tom, what can you tell us about Iran's attack on Israel?

BOWMAN: Well, first of all, it's a big loss for Iran. That's what a retired military officer told me. Iran threw everything it had against Israel and pretty much got nothing for it - no fatalities, no real destruction on military facilities. And, you know, the - again, the U.S. helped Israel shoot down 300-plus incoming missiles and drones. The U.S. used its aircraft jets, shooting some of them down over Iraq before they even got close to Israel. So again, they really got nothing for it. The big question now is, how does Israel respond? Does it attack Iran? I know President Biden, I'm told, has spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and told him to be very cautious. But we'll see what happens. It seems like the - Israel will respond in some way. But what does that mean? Do they hit Iranian territory? Do they hit a Iranian military target? We just don't know at this point.

RASCOE: And can you talk us more about what the U.S. role in shooting down some of those drones and missiles was, and was it just the U.S. helping out there?

BOWMAN: Well, the U.S. helped out right from the start. They would have alerted Israel to the launch of these missiles using its spy satellites. And also, the U.S. again used their fighter aircraft in the area to shoot down a lot of these drones. And also, I'm told that some of the ballistic missiles that came into Iranian airspace - they were shot down by the U.S., either the ships in the Eastern Mediterranean with the Aegis missile system - anti-missile system or Patriot missile batteries in the area. But at least three ballistic missiles were shot down by the U.S. They're still assessing exactly what it looked like.

RASCOE: U.S. officials have been warning of Iran's attack for days. What do you think the biggest concern among U.S. defense officials is right now?

BOWMAN: Well, the biggest concern, as they've said from the start, and the president has said from the start - President Biden - is the concern about this widening into a regional war. Apparently, it already has, since Iran for the first time, has shot missiles and drones into Israel. And again, they're worried about Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militants in Lebanon, you know, shooting missiles, more missiles, into Israel. That's a concern they have. But if Israel does respond and strikes at Iran itself, then what happens? Do we get, you know, back and forth attacks on each country, maybe drawing the U.S. in - that's a huge concern here. And then, of course, U.S. forces in the region, in - 2,500 in Iraq, there's hundreds in Syria, training the Iraqi forces also going after the remnants of ISIS. Did they get hit by Iranian proxies? That is a huge concern. But at this point, no attacks on any U.S. forces in either Iraq or Syria, I'm told.

RASCOE: So what did we learn about Iran's capabilities from this attack?

BOWMAN: We learned that it could be easily shot down by Israel and the U.S.

RASCOE: NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. You'll be with us in the studio throughout the morning. Thank you so much, Tom.

BOWMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.

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