Iran missile attacks target U.S. forces in Iraq; Trump says 'All is well!'

BAGHDAD: Iran launched a missile attack on U.S.-led forces in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. drone stri...

BAGHDAD: Iran launched a missile attack on U.S.-led forces in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike on an Iranian commander whose killing has raised fears of a wider war in the Middle East.

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles from its territory against at least two Iraqi facilities hosting U.S.-led coalition personnel at about 1:30 a.m. (2230 GMT), the U.S. military said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet late on Tuesday that an assessment of casualties and damage from the strikes was under way and that he would make a statement on Wednesday morning.

“All is well!” Trump, who visited the al-Asad air base in December 2018, said in the Twitter post.

One source said early indications were of no U.S. casualties. Other U.S. officials declined to comment.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps confirmed they fired the missiles in retaliation for last week’s killing of Qassem Soleimani, according to a statement on state TV.

The force advised the United States to withdraw its troops from the region to prevent more deaths and warned U.S. allies including Israel not to allow attacks from their territories.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that the bases targeted were al-Asad air base and another facility 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.”

Hours earlier on Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should anticipate retaliation from Iran over Friday’s 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,” 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.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran “took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter”, targeting the bases where the attack against its citizens and senior officials was launched.

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

If the U.S. military was indeed spared casualties, and Iran has completed its threatened retaliation for the U.S. drone strike on Soleimani, as Zarif suggested, there might be an opportunity for Washington and Tehran to seek an off-ramp to their increasingly violent confrontation.

Asian stock markets, which had been roiled by the attack, pared some of their losses after the tweets from Trump and Zarif. U.S. crude prices also retreated after surging almost 5% on worries any conflict could cut oil supplies.

‘WE WILL TAKE REVENGE’
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it would ban U.S. carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Singapore Airlines had already diverted all flight routes from Iranian airspace.

Democrats in the U.S. Congress and some of the party’s presidential contenders warned about the escalating conflict.

“Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting U.S. troops in Iraq,” U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter. “We must ensure the safety of our service members, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war.”

Soleimani, a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s long-standing campaign to drive U.S. 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 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.

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 throngs who crowded the streets for Soleimani’s funeral on Tuesday in Kerman, his hometown in southeastern Iran.

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 to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.

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Local Glob: Iran missile attacks target U.S. forces in Iraq; Trump says 'All is well!'
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