Iran launched a series of missile attacks on US facilities in northern Iraq, including the Ain al-Asad military base where US troops are stationed, less than a week after the United States killed Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top generals.
Iranian state television said the Revolutionary Guard had attacked Ain al-Asad airbase and threatened “more crushing responses” if the US launched any fresh attacks following the Iranian retaliation.
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In a statement, Iran warned the US allies in the region that they too would be attacked if they allowed their countries to be used for attacking Iran.
Al Jazeera’s Osama bin Javaid, reporting from Baghdad, said 13 rockets had been fired at Ain al-Asad airbase and there had also been an attack on facilities close to the airport in Erbil.
The strikes come less than a week after the US attack on Soleimani, who was killed near Baghdad’s international airport, alongside Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several others.
In the United States, the Pentagon confirmed more than a dozen rockets had been launched against US military and coalition forces in Iraq and that the missiles had come from Iran.
“We are working on initial battle damage assessments,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. “We will all take all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners and allies in the region.”
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived at the White House late on Tuesday, and an official said President Donald Trump had been briefed on the attacks and was monitoring the situation closely.
Hours earlier on Tuesday, Esper said the United States should anticipate retaliation from Iran over the killing of Soleimani who was commander of the elite Quds Force.
Iran on Wednesday targeted two sites in northern Iraq where US forces are stationed [Al Jazeera]
“I think we should expect that they will retaliate in some way, shape or form,” he told a news briefing at the Pentagon, adding that such retaliation could be through Iran-backed proxy groups outside of Iran or “by their own hand.”
“We’re prepared for any contingency. And then we will respond appropriately to whatever they do.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, warned the US and the world could not afford to go to war.
Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 8, 2020
Ismael Alsodani, a retired Brigadier General and former Iraqi defence attache to the US told Al Jazeera, Iran’s reponse was calibrated to reflect the seriousness of the Soleimani attack.
“Killing Soleimani was an insult from the Americans to the Iranians,” Alsodani said. “They are compelled to retaliate in a way where the target will be the same size and scale of killing Soleimani. I don’t think this will be the only retaliation.”
Prompted by the strong public backlash over Soleimani’s killing on Iraqi soil, lawmakers in Iraq voted on Sunday to demand the removal of all foreign forces from the country.
More than 5,000 US troops remain in the country along with other foreign forces as part of a coalition that has trained and supported Iraqi security forces against the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
“The worst expectation that Iraq had, that it will again become a theatre of confrontation between world powers seems to be coming true again tonight, as Iraq was the place where the US chose to take out Soleimani and Iraq again is the place where the Iranians chose to attack US forces,” Al Jazeera’s Bin Javaid said.
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