Iran fires dozen missiles at 2 US military bases in Iraq. Then a warning
The US bases in Iraq, Pentagon said, had been “on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region”.
The US department of defence confirmed that Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against its military and coalition forces at two bases in Iraq Tuesday evening US eastern time (early Wednesday morning in India). There were no reports of casualties yet. The United States has close to 6,000 troops in Iraq, to combat the Islamic State, or what remains of it, and train Iraqi forces.
“All is well,” US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter late on Tuesday. “Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”
The President had gone into a huddle with his top national security officials shortly after the attacks were confirmed, amidst talk of the United States responding to these strikes. Defence secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were seen driving into the White House. There was speculation that President Trump could address the nation, which, it was expected, could include the next steps, the massive retribution that he has been threatening in remarks and tweets in recent days. Late in the evening the White House said there won’t be any address by Trump or any other US official.
Watch: Iran fires ballistic missiles on Iraqi air bases hosting US military forces
“If Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly,” President Trump had told reporters earlier in the day when asked if the United States was prepared for retaliatory military action from Iran to the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC), He had earlier warned of a “very fast and very hard” response from the United States, hitting 52 targets, which would include cultural sites, something that he has had to drop under pressure from critics.
Confirming the attacks, the US department of defence spokesman Jonathan Hoffman had said “it is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil.” These bases, he added, had been “on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region”.
Tasnim News, an Iranian news outlet closely linked to the IRGC, reported the IRGC had fired “tens” of rockets in an operation dubbed “Operation Martyr Soleimani” (CNN reported from Tehran the strikes were called “Operation Harsh Revenge”), to avenge the assassination of General Soleimani. The IRGC also put US allies on notice. “We warn all allied countries of the US that if attacks are launched from bases in their countries on Iran, they will be a target of military retaliation.”
Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter, “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.”
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
But chances of de-escalation of tensions between the two sides looked bleak. “Efforts to de-escalate crisis off to a bad start with US denying Iranian FM a visa and Iran launching missiles at US base,” Richard Haas, the head of Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, wrote on Twitter. “If each side thinks it is better placed to dominate as matters escalate and that the other will back down first we are in for a dangerous confrontation.”
The US has refused visa to Foreign Minister Zarif to travel to New York to attend a UN Security Council meeting.