In a latest development, Iran, after midnight, has fired more than a dozen rockets at two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops. The attack has been officially claimed by Tehran and the development has been confirmed by the Pentagon. However of the 17 missiles launched, five hit bases where no troops were based. Apparently there is no loss of life.
American analysts are speculating whether there was a deliberate attempt by Iran to avoid a loss of life or their missiles were antiquated. US forces also it seems got enough warning that they were able to move their people into shelters. The fact that it was close to dawn – when there would have been little activity also helped to avoid loss of life. The event has given Iran the ability to claim that it has taken a military to military response as wanted by the Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with no loss of life, which should help not to escalate fears of war between Iran and the USA.
Pakistani analysts have opined that this development is likely to be the first step in the right direction; de-escalation. Before the attack, Iran issued threats of targeting 34 sites which were deemed important to the US. After the killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s second most powerful figure behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tensions peaked between Iran and the USA.
According to the international media reports, the rockets fired at the Ain al-Asad base in Anbar province and a base in Erbil early on Wednesday came amid escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Iranian official warns any US retaliation will lead to all-out war in the Middle East. https://t.co/Sm37DQWUfX
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 8, 2020
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it conducted the operation at the same early morning hour that the United States killed Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani on Friday.
So far response has been tempered from the President Donald Trump who tweeted after the attack and claimed “all is well”.
Two air bases were targeted
According to Iran’s Fars news agency, Fateh-313 missiles hit Ain al-Asad airbase, which is located 233km (144 miles) west of Baghdad. The Fateh-313 surface-to-surface missile was launched in August 2015 and has a range of 500km (310 miles).
According to the US Central Command, which oversees the US military in the region, 15 missiles were fired, with 10 hitting the Asad base in Anbar, and one at a location near Erbil airport. Four of the missiles reportedly failed.
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Ain al-Asad was the second largest American airbase in Iraq established during the US occupation of the country between 2003 and 2011.
In 2016, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) also launched attacks at the base, which then housed several hundred US troops and advisers training the Iraqi army after the US withdrawal in 2011.
The second US base in Erbil has not been named, but it is close to the airport in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
In 2016, following the advance of ISIL, the number of US troops increased once again to 5,000, with an additional 1,000 more repositioned from Syria, bringing the total to about 6,000 as of October 2019.
“Facing saving done”
G-M Pitafi, Professor of International Relations at the University of Management and Technology (UMT), Lahore, told GVS that the situation in the Middle East is likely to come to normalcy. “I think Iran wanted to get something for the face-saving. The US probably agreed to allow Iran to target its two airbases where the damage is highly unlikely. This attack seems to be a result of an understanding between Tehran and Washington,” he said.
Professor Pitafi believes that Iranian leadership is now in a position to sell its version of “courage and bravery” since they can claim that “they have attacked the American troops”. “We were expecting it. Several sources confirmed to us that Tehran had asked the American leadership to give them something substantial for the face-saving. Here it is,” he opined.
Oil prices jolted?
Al Jazeera reported that Oil prices calmed on Wednesday following an early spike due to concerns that global oil supplies may be disrupted after Iran fired rockets at military bases in Iraq hosting United States forces, raising the prospect of a regional conflagration that could disrupt oil supplies.
Stocks are still down for the day so far but have erased some earlier losses as tweets by US President Donald Trump and Iran’s foreign minister appeared to signal a period of calm – for now.
Oil surges, stocks fall after Iran targets US troops in Iraq https://t.co/FQ8uoqOCBV
— Daniela Zini (@DanielaZini1) January 8, 2020
Brent crude futures were up 97 cents or 1.4 percent to $69.24 by around 04:03 GMT, after earlier rising to $71.75, the highest since mid-September 2019. West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed 82 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $63.52 a barrel. It earlier reached a high of $65.85, the most since late April last year.
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“What we have seen is a very limited airstrike on bases in Iraq and that has been somewhat a relief to the markets,” said Abid Ali, Al Jazeera economics editor.
“Initially we saw the markets fall by 2.2 percent in Japan, but that has recovered. We expected US markets to open lower by possibly about 1.7 percent but futures have pared back. And all of this is becasue of President Trump’s latest tweet – that ‘all is well’ – which has sort of calmed things down,” he said.
Attention has turned to the Straits of Hormuz in Iran, through which 34 million barrels of oil are shipped to the US every month, Al Jazeera’s Ali said. “If there had been an attack on or a blockage of the straits, then we would see oil prices shoot up to $150 a barrel and that would be catastrophic for the global economy. But what we have seen is a very limited airstrike on bases in Iraq and that has been somewhat a relief to the markets,” he said. “Things have calmed down and hopefully it will remain that way,” Ali added.
The price of gold initially shot past $1,600 per ounce on the spot market but later pared gains to trade at $1,593.56 per ounce, as investors rushed to safe-haven investments