Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Donald Trump have promised to make speeches this Wednesday, January 8, after Iran fired more than a dozen rockets at two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops.
The rockets fired at the Ain al-Asad base in Anbar province and a base in Erbil came early today amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran following the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq last week. Iran had pledged severe retaliation.
This is the most direct assault by Iran on the US since the seizing of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the attack was in retaliation for the death of Soleimani on Friday – killed in a missile strike outside Baghdad airport on the orders of President Trump – and warned US allies that their bases could also be targeted.
Iran-backed Iraqi militia commander Qais al-Khazali said that Iran had made its initial response for the US killing its top general, and it was now time for Iraq to do so as well.
Iraq’s response will not be lesser than that of Iran’s, tweeted Khazaili, who leads the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group which the US has designated a terrorist organisation.
“The initial Iranian response to the assassination of the martyred commander Soleimani has happened. Now it is time for the initial response to the assassination of the martyred commander Muhandis. And because Iraqis are brave and zealous, their response will not be any less than that of Iran’s. That is a promise,” he said
urged restraint from all sides, saying Beijing would play a “responsible
role” in helping to defuse tensions.
“It is not in the interest of any party that the situation in the Middle East worsens further,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.
Geng said China would “play a responsible role in promoting a de-escalation of the situation as soon as possible”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhahu warned that his country would strike back hard against anyone who attacked it, as he reiterated his support for the US killing of Soleimani.
“Whoever tries to attack us will be dealt the strongest blow,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem.
He said that Israel “stands completely” beside US President Donald Trump’s decision, saying Trump should be congratulated on acting “swiftly, boldly and resolutely”.
Germany’s defence minister condemned Iranian missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing coalition military and called on Tehran to end a “spiral” of conflict.
The United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said it is essential that the region pulls back from current “troubling” tensions.
“De-escalation is both wise and necessary. A political path towards stability must follow,” he said on Twitter.
Iran’s missile attacks on US targets in Iraq were “legitimate self-defence”, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told state TV, adding that Washington’s assessment to retaliate should not be based on “illusions”.
“Our action was a legitimate self-defence and the United States should avoid assessing it based on illusions,” Zarif said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US should withdraw from the region and said Tehran’s missile attacks on US targets in Iraq were “a slap on the face” for America.
“Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region,” Khamenei said in a televised speech, ruling out any resumption of talks with Washington about a 2015 nuclear deal.
Khamenei also said the US was trying to remove Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement in its bid to help Israel.
Iranian state television claimed that at least 80 “American terrorists” were killed in attacks involving 15 missiles Tehran launched on US targets in Iraq, adding that none of the missiles were intercepted. The claim could not be independently verified and the state television did not provide evidence of how it obtained that information.
“All is well!” Trump tweeted. “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 assassination of Soleimani – head of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force and architect of Iranian policy in the region – on January 3 was a major escalation in already deteriorating relations between Iran and the US.
The general was regarded as a terrorist by the US government, which says he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and was plotting “imminent” attacks.
— With agency reports