Iran fired missiles Wednesday at Iraqi bases housing the US military, officials in Washington and Tehran said, in the first act of the Islamic republic’s promised revenge for the US killing of a top Iranian general.
Iranian state television claimed that Wednesday missile strikes on bases in Iraq killed 80 Americans, in a report citing what it called an informed Revolutionary Guards source.
Iran launched 22 missiles overnight at the Iraqi bases used by the US and other US-led coalition troops, the Iraqi army said.
“At least 80 American military [personnel] were killed in this attack,” the state television website reported.
In addition, it said, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and other military equipment had been severely damaged in the attack.
The Pentagon said it was still “working on initial battle damage assessments” after “Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq.”
“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and coalition personnel” at Ain al-Asad and Arbil, the Pentagon said.
The Revolutionary Guards source said at least 140 targets of the US and their allies had been identified in the region and would be attacked “if the Americans commit any kind of mistake again.”
The source said 15 missiles hit Ain Al-Assad base and none was intercepted by “radars of America’s terrorist army.”
Reporting no casualties as yet, the Pentagon said the facilities had been on “high alert” after days of steadily mounting tension and exchanges of threats of war.
US President Donald Trump, who visited al-Asad with First Lady Melania Trump in December 2018, his first trip to US troops deployed in a war zone, said initial casualty assessments indicated “all is well.”
He tweeted: “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said no Filipinos have been reported to have been hurt or killed in Iran’s missile attacks.
“So far US said no Filipinos found to have been hurt. But search and damage assessment not complete,” he said in his Twitter account.
Iranian state television reported an attack on one base housing US personnel, saying it was in response to Friday’s killing in a US drone strike of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, one of the most important figures in the country’s government.
Also killed was a top Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was with Soleimani just outside Baghdad international airport when the US drone overhead opened fire.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards announced that the Ain al-Asad base was hit with dozens of missiles, warning a US counter-attack would be met with an even “more crushing response” and threatening to strike Israel and America’s “allied governments.”
But 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.
The brazenness of the strike was highly unusual for Iran, which has tended to disguise attacks on US interests or troops through the use of proxy Shiite forces. This time, conventional, rather than guerrilla-style weapons were used and responsibility was rapidly claimed.
Oil prices immediately jumped on the news, with the benchmark WTI spiking more than 4.5 percent to $65.54 a barrel before receding slightly.
Iran’s supreme leader described the missile attack as a “slap in the face” on the United States.
“Last night, a slap in the face was delivered,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
His remarks came after he had vowed “severe revenge” for a US drone strike that killed Soleimani.
“Military actions in this form are not sufficient for that issue,” Khamenei said, referring to the assassination.
“What is important is that America’s corrupt presence must come to an end in this region.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, warned that Israel would strike a “resounding blow” if attacked by arch-foe Iran, as regional tensions soar.
“Anyone who attacks us will receive a resounding blow,” the premier told a Jerusalem conference after Iran launched a salvo retaliatory missile strikes on bases used by US troops in Iraq.
Netanyahu has described the target of last week’s US drone strike, Soleimani, as a “terrorist-in-chief.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Muslim countries should unite to protect themselves against external threats, after describing the US killing of Soleimani as immoral.
The world’s oldest premier, who has in recent months stoked diplomatic tensions by speaking out on issues concerning the Muslim world, also said the US drone attack on Soleimani was against international laws.
Soleimani’s killing in Baghdad last Friday has sparked fears of a broader conflict in the Middle East. Mahathir, 94, said it could also lead to an escalation in “what is called terrorism.”
“The time is right for Muslim countries to come together,” Mahathir told reporters.
“We are no longer safe now. If anybody insults or says something that somebody doesn’t like, it is all right for that person from another country to send a drone and perhaps have a shot at me.” With AFP