- Iranian rockets hit airbase in Iraq where US troops are housed
- The Pentagon confirms attacks
- Iran officially takes responsibility
- President Trump tweets “All is well” after Iran crosses his red line
Iran on Tuesday launched more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases that hold US troops in what it says is retaliation for the American airstrike that killed top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, last week.
US defense headquarters, the Pentagon, confirmed the attacks seen to be a test of President Donald Trump’s presidency, as Iran has crossed the red line he drew a couple of days ago regarding Iranian retaliation of the killing of Soleimani.
Trump had issued a threat to Iran on Tuesday, just hours before the attacks began. “If Iran does anything that it shouldn’t be doing, they will be suffering the consequences and very strongly,” the President said.
This was after Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, responded to Trump’s threats to hit 52 Iranian sites if Tehran retaliated for the drone strike that killed Soleimani, by warning on Twitter: “Never threaten the Iranian nation.”
All is well?
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley were at the White House on Tuesday night to brief the president on the attacks after which Trump tweeted:
“All is well! 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 initial assessment is that the Iranian missiles struck areas of the al-Asad base not populated by Americans, according to a US military official and a senior administration official.
Trump said he would be making an official statement on Wednesday.
Iran claims responsibility
Iranian state TV reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) “has hit U.S. Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq with tens of missiles.” The IRGC warned the US of more “crushing responses in case of new aggression,” according to state TV.
The attack came hours after Esper told CNN that the US “is not seeking a war with Iran” but it is “prepared to finish one.”
In a statement, the IRGC, an elite wing of the Iranian military said the attacks were “hard revenge” for the death of Soleimani. The IRGC said any country housing US troops could be subject to “hostile and aggressive acts” and called on American citizens to demand the government remove US troops from the region.
“To the Great Satan … we warn that if you repeat your wickedness or take any additional movements or make additional aggression, we will respond with more painful and crushing responses,” the statement to the US read.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated on Twitter that the response was meant to be proportionate to the American attack that killed Soleimani.
“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting bases 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,” Zarif tweeted.
Zarif further warned that if the US retaliates, Tehran would respond with attacks inside the US and target the cities of Dubai in the UAE and Haifa in Israel.
Analysts see Iran’s decision to attack as a “huge gamble”. Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor and Iran expert at the University of Ottawa said that leaders in Tehran have included Trump’s domestic political concerns in their calculations. The President ran on a platform of ending US involvement in the messy Middle East entanglements.
“Iran assesses Trump does not want to get bogged down in a large scale war in the Middle East, and that this gives it more margin to maneuver,” Juneau wrote on Twitter. “Needless to say, this is a HUGE gamble given how unpredictable Trump is.”
Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said Iran’s attack was a foregone conclusion after the Ayatollah announced there would be retaliation. Further escalation will depend on Trump’s ability to absorb the attack and a few casualties, she said.
Calls for calm
US lawmakers are calling for calm. Rep. Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN’s Erin Burnett there’s a need to “tone down the rhetoric on all sides and see how we can extricate ourselves from this nightmare because I don’t think the American people want to go to war.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was discussing the situation in Iran when she was handed a note with news of the attack, is said to have told lawmakers who attended the meeting to “pray”.
You may watch a video of the attack here:
Watch this space for updates on the development.