Tehran has fired more than a dozen rockets from Iranian territory against at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US-led coalition personnel, the US military said.
This still image from an Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting video that allegedly shows rockets launched from Iran against the US military base in Ein-al Asad in Iraq.
A second round of attacks started an hour after the first phase took place, Tehran-based Tasnim news agency reported.
In a tweet, US President Donald Trump said “all is well” and an assessment of casualties and damage was underway.
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.200K3:45 PM – Jan 8, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy103K people are talking about this
The Iranian Foreign Minister has also tweeted out a response, saying the country did not seek escalation.
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.13.3K3:32 PM – Jan 8, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy10.3K people are talking about this
Tensions have mounted with Iran following a US drone strike on Friday that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps confirmed that they fired the rockets to retaliate for last week’s killing of Soleimani, according to a statement on state TV.
The statement advised the United States to withdraw its troops from the region to prevent more deaths, state TV said.
Iranian state TV quoted a Revolutionary Guards commander as saying: “The missile attacks today were just the first step [US President Donald] should think about withdrawing its troops from the region and not to leave them within our reach.”
The Pentagon did not provide reports of casualties in the attack.
“We are working on initial battle damage assessments,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement, adding that the bases targeted were al-Asad air base and another in Erbil, Iraq.
“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”
Trump has been briefed on reports of the attack and was monitoring the situation, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.
“We are aware of the reports of attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq. The president has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” Grisham said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived at the White House following news of the attack. It was unclear what response, if any, the United States was planning.
Earlier on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should anticipate retaliation from Iran over the killing in Iraq of Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force.
“I think we should expect that they will retaliate in some way, shape or form,” Esper 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.”
American soldiers taking position around the embassy in Iraq end of last year when tensions were raised.
“We’re prepared for any contingency. And then we will respond appropriately to whatever they do.”
More than 5000 US troops remain in the country along with other foreign forces as part of a coalition that has trained and backed up Iraqi security forces against the threat of Islamic State militants.
Some 115 German soldiers are stationed in Erbil and all are fine, a spokesman for Bundeswehr operations said.
A NATO official told Reuters it would move some of its several hundred trainers out of Iraq. Canada said some of its 500 Iraq-based forces would be temporarily moved to Kuwait for safety reasons.
Stock markets in Asia fell sharply on news of the rocket attack, while investor safe havens including the Japanese yen and gold shot higher.
Soleimani, a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s long-standing campaign to drive US forces out of Iraq, was also responsible for building up Tehran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East.
He was a national hero to many Iranians, whether supporters of the clerical leadership or not, but viewed as a dangerous villain by Western governments opposed to Iran’s arc of influence running across the Levant and into the Gulf region.
‘We will take revenge’
A senior Iranian official said on Tuesday that Tehran was considering several scenarios to avenge Soleimani’s death. Other senior figures have said the Islamic Republic would match the scale of the killing when it responds, but that it would choose the time and place.
“We will take revenge, a hard and definitive revenge,” the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, told the throngs in Kerman, Soleimani’s hometown in southeastern Iran.
Iranian mourners gather during the final stage of funeral processions Qasem Soleimani, in his hometown Kerman. Photo: AFP
Soleimani’s burial went ahead after several hours of delay following a stampede that killed at least 56 people and injured more than 210, according an emergency official quoted by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.
Soleimani’s body had been taken to holy Shi’ite Muslim cities in Iraq and Iran, as well as the Iranian capital, Tehran, before arriving for burial in the city cemetery’s “martyrs section”, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.
In each place, huge numbers of people filled thoroughfares, chanting: “Death to America” and weeping with emotion. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept as he led prayers in Tehran.
Prompted by the strong public backlash over Soleimani’s killing on Iraqi soil, lawmakers in Iraq voted on Sunday to demand a removal of all foreign forces from the country.
US officials have said Soleimani was killed because of solid intelligence indicating forces under his command planned attacks on US targets in the region, although they have provided no evidence.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said 13 “revenge scenarios” were being considered, Fars news agency reported. Even the weakest option would prove “a historic nightmare for the Americans”, he said.
FAA ‘closely monitoring’ aviation safety in Middle East after missile attack
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was closely monitoring events in the Middle East and coordinating with US airlines and foreign authorities about aviation safety after the missile attack.
US carriers are banned from flying at altitudes below 26,000 feet over Iraq under FAA guidance issued in 2018 because of ongoing concerns about threats to US civil aviation throughout Iraq.
They have been banned from flying in an area of Iranian airspace above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman since Iran shot down a high-altitude US drone last June. No major US airlines fly over Iran at present.
Singapore Airlines Ltd said after the attack on US bases in Iraq that all of its flights would be diverted away from Iranian airspace.
An international aviation team has been activated to support “effective coordination and communication” between airlines and countries as tensions mount in the Middle East after the death of Soleimani, global airlines body IATA said on Tuesday.
Airlines and the United Nations’ aviation agency have started to monitor strategic airspace over Iran and Iraq. With some commercial carriers still serving those countries and others flying over their airspace, the International Air Transport Association also issued a statement reminding countries of their obligation to communicate potential risks to civil aviation.
“It is critical that states live up to this obligation as tensions in the Middle East rise,” the group said.
On Monday, Germany published a new warning for Iraq, indicating areas of concern for overflying traffic, according to a report published by the site OPSGROUP.
The coordination team operated by IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was activated as a “standard precautionary measure,” in the event that contingency measures are required by airlines, IATA said in a statement to Reuters.
The team brings together airlines, regulators and air navigation service providers to ensure any potential risks to aviation are shared quickly, an industry source familiar with the group said.
“Everyone’s urging restraint,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Airspace controlled by Iran and Iraq are seen as strategic for commercial aviation in the Middle East. If there were the need to shut down the airspace, carriers would have to be rerouted which would lead to greater congestion and fuel costs, said the source.