Iran launches missile attacks on US military base in Iraq

Iran fires more than a dozen rockets at Iraq’s Ain al-Asad military base and targets Erbil facility.

Iran has launched a series of missile attacks on US facilities in Iraq, days after the United States assassinated top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani

Iranian state television said in the early hours of Wednesday that the Revolutionary Guards Corps had attacked Ain al-Asad military base, where US troops are stationed. A second facility near Erbil airport was also hit.  

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran had taken and concluded “proportionate measures in self-defense” under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

“We do not seek an escalation or a war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he said on Twitter.

In Washington, US President Donald Trump said in a tweet late on Tuesday that an assessment of casualties and damage from the strikes was underway.

“All is well!” Trump said in the Twitter post, adding that he would make a statement on Wednesday morning.

Iranian state television said at least 80 “American terrorists” were killed in attacks involving 15 missiles Tehran, adding that none of the missiles were intercepted.

State TV, citing a senior Revolutionary Guards Corps source, also said Iran had 100 other targets in the region in its sights if Washington took any retaliatory measures. It also said US helicopters and military equipment were “severely damaged”.

There was no immediate comment by US officials. Earlier, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press news agency there were “few if any” casualties.

Meanwhile, the Danish armed forces said in a Twitter post no Danish soldiers were wounded or killed in the missile strike on the Al-Asad airbase. Denmark has about 130 soldiers at the base as part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group.

In a statement soon after the launch of the missile launches, Iran warned US allies in the region including Israel that they too would be attacked if they allowed their countries to be used for attacking Iran. 

Iranian television reported a senior official in the Iranian supreme leader’s office said the missile attacks were the “weakest” of several retaliation scenarios.

The Pentagon confirmation,

The Pentagon meanwhile confirmed more than a dozen missiles had been launched against US military and coalition forces in Iraq, adding 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.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived at the White House late on Tuesday, and an official said Trump had been briefed on the attacks and was monitoring the situation closely.

Hours earlier, Esper said the US should anticipate a response from Iran for the killing on Friday of Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force who was assassinated in a US drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport, alongside Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several others.

“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, earlier warned the US and the world could not afford to go to war.

Ismael Alsodani, a retired Brigadier General and former Iraqi defense attache to the US told Al Jazeera, Iran’s response 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 for Soleimani’s killing on Iraqi soil, legislators in Iraq voted on Sunday to demand the removal of all foreign forces from the country.