Iran on Wednesday launched a missile attack on an Iraqi airbase where US forces are based, threatening “more crushing responses” if Washington carried out further strikes, Iranian state media said.
It said the missiles were in response to a US strike last week that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi top commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The Iraqi military said in a statement that 22 missiles were launched on the Ain al-Asad air base and a base in Erbil between 1:45am and 2:15am, but there were no casualties among Iraqi forces.
The Pentagon said that Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases that hold US troops in response to the US airstrike that killed a top Iranian general last week https://t.co/Y5R5yer4C4
— CNN (@CNN) January 8, 2020
The attack came in three waves just after midnight, the sources said.
Iran swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack, with state TV saying it had launched “tens of missiles” on the base and promised “more crushing responses” if the US carried out further strikes.
The US-led coalition and NATO announced they were temporarily suspending their operations in Iraq
The Iranian Foreign Minister, Javed Zarif, has defended the Iran’s response and said that it was an act of self defense in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter. He clarified that while Iran is not seeking war, it will defend itself.
Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base 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.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2020
The Pentagon said Iran had fired more than a dozen missiles against Ain al-Asad and another installation hosting US and coalition forces near Arbil.
It said bases hosting foreign troops had expected an attack and had been on “high alert” for days.
US President Donald Trump was “monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” according to the White House.
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2020
The attack came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to join forces to “respond” to the killing of General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last week.
Soleimani was seen as the “godfather” of Tehran’s proxy network across the region and Muhandis, one of his top advisors, was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network.
Many factions within the Hashed, which has been incorporated into the Iraqi state, have ties to Tehran.
On Tuesday, a hardline Hashed faction issued its fiercest threat yet to retaliate.
“The US Marines must immediately return to their dens to make their coffins,” said Akram al-Kaabi, head of the Harakat al-Nujaba group.
Iran has finally launched the much expected attack on US military base in Iraq. Over a dozen missiles were said to have been launched in the attack.
In another news, Ukrainian passenger plane carrying 180 people crashes in Iran.
— Abdul Raheem (@iamunclerahiiim) January 8, 2020
“The International Resistance Regiments have been formed in order to execute a harsh, deliberate response to the American terrorist forces,” Kaabi added.
His deputy had earlier called for an urgent meeting to unite anti-American forces across Iraq.
“We will wage a war against the American presence in all parts of the region that we can reach,” said Nasr al-Shammary.
US installations across Iraq had faced some 15 rocket attacks in recent months but none had been claimed.
As a result, the US-led coalition and NATO announced they were temporarily suspending their operations in Iraq.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk.