Iran strikes back at US with missile attack on bases in Iraq

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday evening that Iran launched ballistic missiles at two targets hosting U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq.

FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2018, file photo, members of the military wait outside facilities where President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are visiting at Al Assad Air Base, Iraq. Iran said Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, it has launched "tens" of surface-to-surface missiles at Iraq's Ain Assad air base housing U.S. troops over America’s killing of a top Iranian general. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that “more than a dozen" ballistic missiles had been fired from Iran at two Iraqi military bases.

“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil,” read the statement.

Hoffman said the U.S. is “working on initial battle damage assessments."

A U.S. official told the Associated Press there were very few, if any, casualties from the attack.

Following the strikes, President Donald Trump tweeted “All is well!" and that he’d make a statement on the strikes Wednesday morning.

Trump tweeted that casualty and damage assessments are ongoing but added, “So far, so good!”

The series of missiles were fired at a base in Anbar Province and another in Irbil in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region, according to U.S. officials.

The Iraqi military said Wednesday there are no casualties among its troops as a result of the strike.

A statement carried by the state news agency said the attack lasted half an hour, starting at 1:45 a.m. local time. The statement said 22 missiles were fired.

Seventeen missiles hit al-Asad air base, including two that did not explode in the Hitan area west of the town of Hit. Five other missiles hit the northern region of Irbil.

Iran initially announced only one strike, though U.S. officials confirmed both strikes.

Iranian state TV said Tehran launched “tens” of surface-to-surface missiles at Iraq’s Ain Assad air base housing U.S. troops over America’s killing of a top Iranian general.

State TV described it early Wednesday as Tehran’s revenge operation over the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is warning the U.S. and its regional allies against retaliation.

The Guard issued the warning via a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency. The Guard also threatened Israel.

The White House issued a statement soon after the missile strikes saying: “We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq. The President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.”

State TV said the operation’s name was “Martyr Soleimani.” It said the Guard’s aerospace division, which controls Iran’s missile program, launched the attack.

US reports few if any casualties in Iran strike

A U.S. official says there were very few, if any, casualties from the missile attack.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of a Pentagon briefing.

The official says 15 missiles were fired. Ten struck the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province. One struck a base in Irbil in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region.

Four missiles failed to hit their targets.

The official says the bases are still being searched for casualties.

Late Tuesday night, President Trump tweeted: “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!”

Trump also wrote in the tweet that he would be making a statement on the strikes Wednesday morning.

Iran calls missile attack ‘self-defense’

Iran’s foreign minister is calling Tuesday night’s ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops “proportionate measures in self-defense.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also tweeted early Wednesday that Iran does not seek escalation or war, but will defend itself against any aggression.

Pence briefs top Democrats in Congress

Vice President Mike Pence has briefed top Democrats in Congress on the missile strikes.

Aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both confirmed the lawmakers spoke with the vice president by telephone Tuesday.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, says the New York Democrat is closely monitoring the situation and is praying for the safety of service members and other personnel.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted that the speaker returned a call from the vice president moments after presiding over the House.

FAA restricts US flights over Iran, Iraq

After the missile strikes, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was barring U.S. pilots and carriers from flying in areas of Iraqi, Iranian and some Persian Gulf airspace.

The agency is warning of the “potential for miscalculation or mis-identification" for civilian aircraft amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Such restrictions are often precautionary in nature to prevent civilian aircraft from being confused for ones engaged in armed conflict.

Deadly stampede at Soleimani’s funeral

Earlier, Iranian state TV says a stampede at the funeral for a top general slain in a U.S. airstrike has killed 56 people and injured 213 others.

Thousands of mourners had surrounded the coffin of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in his hometown of Kerman when the crush occurred.

There was no information as to what had set off the stampede.

Online videos showed people lying lifeless on a road and others shouting and administering CPR.

The deaths came as more angry calls rose from Iran to avenge Soleimani's death. The U.S. continued to reinforce its own positions in the region and warned of an unspecified threat to shipping from Iran in the region's waterways, key routes for global energy supplies.

U.S. embassies and consulates from Asia to Africa and Europe issued security alerts for Americans.

Soleimani’s burial was delayed. Just before 6 a.m. Wednesday, officials lowered the shroud-wrapped remains of the general into the ground in the southeastern city of Kerman.

Earlier Tuesday, Hossein Salami, the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, threatened to “set ablaze” places supported by the U.S. over the killing of Soleimani, sparking cries of “Death to Israel!”

United States officials are braced for Iran to respond to the killing of its most powerful general.

They’re noting heightened levels of military readiness in the country and are preparing for a possible attempt on the life of an American military commander. The U.S. is reinforcing its positions in the region.

President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 2 strike against Soleimani after the death of an American contractor in Iraq.

Trump pressed to detail what prompted strike on Iran general

Trump and his top advisers are being pressured to disclose more detail about the intelligence that led him to order the killing. He contended Tuesday that his decision saved American lives and that members of Congress will be briefed soon on what led to the attack.

Hours later, Iran struck back, firing a series of surface-to-surface missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops and warning the United States and its allies in the region not to retaliate.

Earlier Tuesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon that Iranian threats against Americans were “'days away" from being executed when Soleimani was killed. Democrats are calling for more information to be declassified.

U.S. officials believe the next steps by America’s longtime foe will determine the ultimate course of the latest crisis. Iran has vowed revenge.

Soleimani’s killing Friday in Baghdad drastically raised regional tensions and escalated a crisis between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s foreign minister claimed Tuesday that the U.S. has declined to issue him a visa to attend UN meetings in New York amid the tensions.

Oil tankers were targeted in mine attacks last year the U.S. blamed on Iran. Tehran denied being responsible though it did seize oil tankers around the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world’s crude oil travels.

Iran already said it will no longer honor any of the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord Trump withdrew from in May 2018.

Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden has called into question Trump’s judgment concerning the United States’ fraught relations with Iran.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold House votes this week to limit Trump’s ability to engage militarily. A Senate vote is expected to soon follow.

The killing of the top Iranian general has ratcheted up the anxiety of families of Americans held in Iran. Just a month ago the release of a New Jersey student had given them hope.

The Trump administration has made a priority of bringing home hostages held abroad. But the prospect of a speedy resolution for the handful of captives in Iran seems to have dimmed with the two nations edging dangerously close to conflict and warning of retaliatory strikes.

It’s a contrast from December’s release of a Princeton University graduate student in a prisoner exchange.

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