“Slap on the face from Iran”: Will American troops leave Middle East?

After claiming to have killed at least 80 American soldiers, Iran wants the USA to withdraw from the region. Will America have to pay such ‘huge’ price for Qassem Soleimani’s tragic assassination?

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Iran, after attacking American troops in Iraq, wants the United States of America (USA) to withdraw from the region. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said that “Iran slapped American on the face last night” by launching at least 15 missiles at US forces in Iraq following the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

In a televised speech addressing the nation after Tehran targeted two US military bases in Iraq, Khamenei said, and “Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region.”

The Iranian Supreme Leader added that Tehran views Washington as its enemy. “The US has caused war, division, sedition, destruction, and the demolition of infrastructures in this region. Of course, they do this everywhere in the world. This region won’t accept the US presence. Governments elected by nations won’t accept the presence of the US,” he said.

Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the US, saying it may have “cut off [Qassem] Soleimani’s hand from his body, [but] your foot will be cut from the region,” according to Fars news agency.

Iran 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.

Read more: Iran’s proxies at work against US in Iraq after Soleimani’s murder

However, Iranian state media initially claimed that 80 people were killed and many more casualties. Although subsequently, these numbers disappeared from Iranian TV and seem as if made for domestic consumption. They also reported that the government is threatening “more crushing responses” if Washington carried out further strikes. 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.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seemed to indicate that the missile strikes were over for now. “Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense” targeting a base from which a “cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials” was launched, he said on Twitter.

Will the USA withdraw from the Middle East?

Experts believe that the situation in the Middle East has become very dangerous for American troops. Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for the Middle East and African studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), opines that Iran has multiple options to avenge.

“It seems more than likely that the Iranians will respond to this attack. That said, they do not want to confront the United States head-on, especially since they have a range of asymmetric options that Iran’s leaders can employ over time. For example, Iran could ramp up its nuclear program and target U.S. interests in Iraq relatively quickly. It could also stir up more violence in Afghanistan, where thousands of U.S. forces remain deployed, and target Americans abroad. Tehran is also active in the cyber world,” he noted.

Read more: Iran attacks American Base: Will Trump respond?

US’s Defense Secretary Mark Esper, while rejecting a letter reportedly issued by USA’s military officer posted in Iraq, has said that the country has no plans to pull troops out of Iraq.

Defense Secretary made it clear that the Trump administration did not make any decision in this regard. “There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Esper told Pentagon reporters when asked about the letter, adding there were no plans issued to prepare to leave.

While commenting on the authenticity of the letter he said, “I don’t know what that letter is… We’re trying to find out where that’s coming from, what that is. But there’s been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period.”

Sources claim that the USA is likely to respond to Iran after due deliberation. “The Trump-administration is under unprecedented pressure since Iran is claiming to have killed 80 American soldiers. This is huge, huge for the Americans,” a senior diplomat told GVS.

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