Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Iran attacks 2 US military targets in Iraq: What we know so far

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in Tehran, Iran, on October 30, 2019. | Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

This is in retaliation for the US killing Qassem Soleimani.

Iran fired multiple missiles at two US military targets in Iraq on Tuesday night in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision last week to kill Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite military and intelligence force.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a part of Iran’s military in which Soleimani was a leading figure, claimed responsibility for the attack, and top-level Iranian officials are already boasting about the strikes. For days, Iranian leaders signaled that they would strike US military targets in response to Soleimani’s killing.

A spokesperson for US Central Command told me that Iran fired 15 missiles: Ten struck al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad, Iraq; one struck Erbil in northern Iraq; and four failed. David Cloud of the Los Angeles Times reports that the US was able to track the launches with radar, giving personnel time to take cover.

A White House official told me that there were no American casualties, which tracks with multiple other reports citing unnamed sources saying that there were no US casualties from the strikes. There are unconfirmed reports saying Iraqis may have died.

Trump seems unbothered by what happened, tweeting hours after the attack that “All is well!”

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! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2020

It’s important to note that Iran doesn’t have missiles that can reach the US mainland from Iran, nor does it have a nuclear weapon. It’s why Iran uses proxies and weapons at its disposal mainly to strike US targets and American allies in the Middle East.

There’s a chance for de-escalation, as Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in a tweeted statement that “Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.” Concluded is an important word, signaling that Iran may be done.

Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.
We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2020

However, Iran has threatened to attack inside the US if America responds specifically to this assault — which means an Iranian strike inside the US isn’t imminent. Iran has also vowed to attack the cities of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Haifa in Israel if Iranian soil is bombed.

Details are still developing, but here’s what we do and don’t know so far. We will continue to update this story as we learn more.

What we know

  • A US Central Command spokesperson told me that Iran fired 15 missiles, four of which failed to hit their target. Ten were struck al-Asad airbase and one struck Erbil.
  • A White House official told me there are no American casualties, though it’s unclear if there are Iraqi casualties.
  • Iran has threatened to attack inside the US if America retaliates to this specific assault. Iran has also vowed to attack the cities of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Haifa in Israel if Iranian soil is bombed.
  • The FAA has barred US airlines from flying over Iraq and Iran.

What we don’t know

  • If anyone has been officially confirmed as injured or killed
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