BAGHDAD (Iraq): 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.
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 Al-Assad and Irbil,” the Pentagon said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties but the Pentagon said it had been ready, after days of steadily mounting tension and exchanges of threats of war.
“These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region,” a spokesman said.
Iranian state television reported an attack on one base housing US personnel, saying it was in response Also killed was a top Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was with Soleimani just outside Baghdad international airport when the US drone struck.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards announced that the Ain al-Assad base was hit with dozens of missiles, warning that a US counter-attack would be met with an even “more crushing response.”
In Washington, US President Donald Trump was “monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” according to the White House.
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.
Tension and threats
The potentially lethal new development followed days of sabre rattling between Washington and Tehran, coupled with growing confusion over the future of US troops in Iraq.
At Soleimani’s funeral in Iran, top Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Hussein Salami said Iran would “take revenge.”
If further US attacks occur, “we will set fire to what they love,” he said.
Trump warned that “if Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences and very strongly.”
He called Soleimani “a monster.”
Trump, however, did walk back earlier threats to bomb Iranian cultural sites in the event of conflict -- something that could be a war crime.
“If that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law,” Trump said.
In the Iranian city of Kerman, meanwhile, tragedy deepened an already highly tense situation when more than 50 people died in a crowd stampede at Soleimani’s funeral, Iranian media reported.
The influential figure, responsible for Iran’s regional network of official and unofficial military allies, was due to be buried in his home town when the crowd got out of control.
Foreign troops waver
Trump sought to end confusion over the status of the approximately US 5,200 troops in Iraq, saying they should stay despite calls by the Iraqi parliament for their expulsion.
“At some point we want to get out, but this isn’t the right point,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Despite Washington’s assurances that the US troops will stay put, several allies started to leave, raising questions over the future of a US-led mission to help the Iraqis fight the jihadist Islamic State group.
Canada announced that some of its estimated 500 troops will withdraw to Kuwait. And NATO, which suspended its training mission in Iraq after the killing, said it also was temporarily “repositioning” some personnel to locations inside and outside Iraq.
Several other countries, including Germany and Romania, announced plans to move forces. France said it had no intention of withdrawing its troops from Iraq.
Italy also said that after a “frank and articulate” phone call between Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini and Esper that it’s approximately 1,000 soldiers in the country would stay. (Agencies)
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