Iran launched missile strikes at military facilities in Iraq, where the U.S. military is deployed. Tehran called the attacks the response to the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani...
On Wednesday, January 8, Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at bases in Iraq, where the U.S. military is deployed. Fires that began after midnight Moscow time, there were at least two targets, said the Pentagon. These are Erbil airport and Ain al-Assad airbase.
In total, Iran fired 15 rockets, and an airbase in the city of Tajiya north of Baghdad was also under fire, Bloomberg reported, citing two American officials. Later Reuters reported with reference to the statement of the Iraqi Defense Ministry that Tehran launched 22 missiles.
Iran called its actions a response to the death of the commander of the elite Al-Quds unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Major General Kassem Suleimani. He was killed in an American airstrike, authorized by U.S. President Donald Trump. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei promised вЂњharsh revengeвЂќ to Washington in response to the assassination of the Iranian commander.
The responsibility for the attack on U.S. bases was taken by the IRGC on Wednesday, the IRIB News agency reported. The Iranian military formation warned that from now on U.S. allies in the region, who host the American military, may become a target for Iran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called air strikes against U.S. facilities вЂњproportional measuresвЂќ in response to вЂњcowardly attacks against our citizens and senior political figures. He added that Tehran did not want вЂњan escalation of the warвЂќ.
There are no precise data on the victims of the Iranian airstrikes. The Iraqi Defense Ministry said there were no casualties among Iraqi soldiers. About 80 people were killed during the rocket attacks on U.S. air bases, reports the Iranian TV channel Press TV, but notes that it cannot independently confirm the exact number of casualties.
Donald Trump said the U.S. is assessing the damage from the shelling. вЂњIt's OK! Rockets were fired from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq,вЂќ the American leader wrote on Twitter.
British Foreign Secretary Dominique Raab condemned Iranian strikes, urging Tehran to refrain from repeating "such dangerous actions". Further increases in military tensions in the Middle East are playing into the hands of the terrorist group Islamic State, he added.
Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, called for a halt to provocations against Iran. She said she is closely monitoring the situation after a missile strike on military bases in Iraq. вЂњWe must ensure the safety of our troops by stopping unnecessary provocations by the administration and demanding that Iran stop the violence,вЂќ she tweeted. Pelosi added that the United States and the international community вЂњcannot afford war.
Trump promised to make an official statement Wednesday morning about the missile attacks on U.S. air bases in Iraq.
These strikes have become a вЂњslap on the wristвЂќ for the United States, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said he sees a threat of вЂњdevastating total warвЂќ not only in Iraq but in the entire Middle East region and even in the world.
What happens next
Iran considered it necessary to respond to the murder of Soleimani, but did not want to unleash an open war with the U.S., said the expert of the Center for New American Security Ilan Goldenberg. вЂњEffective and symbolic airstrikes that wouldn't lead to the deaths of Americans are a suitable means to achieve such a goal,вЂќ he said.
According to Goldenberg, Trump's best response to Iran's attack would be a lack of counter-response. вЂњI (hope) that his (Trump's) people are smart enough to understand that and not start making new plans (to attack) at the Pentagon,вЂќ he wrote on Twitter.
Suleimani's elimination caused more damage to Iran than missile strikes вЂ” the United States, Goldenberg said. At the same time, the analyst pointed out that questions about Iran's future nuclear program and the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq remain unresolved. Earlier, the Iraqi parliament voted for a resolution calling on the authorities to expel foreign military contingent from the country.
Another analyst, executive director of the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy and former member of the U.S. National Security Council Michael Singh believes that Trump will hardly refrain from responding to Iranian airstrikes. вЂњI'm skeptical that Trump will choose not to respond to Iran's attack at all, given the seriousness of this step (from Tehran),вЂќ he told Axios.