Tension Mounts In Mideast: Iran Fires Ballistic Missiles At US Military Bases In Iraq

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Baghdad: Iran on Wednesday fired missiles at two US military bases in Iraq, US officials said. This is 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 Ain al-Asad and Arbil,” news agency Agence France Presse reported quoting a Pentagon statement.

There were no immediate reports on casualties. The Pentagon said the facilities had been on “high alert” after days of steadily mounting tension and exchanges of threats of war.

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 that “assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

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”.

“We advise the American people to recall US troops (deployed in the) region in order to avoid further losses and not to allow the lives of its soldiers to be further threatened by the ever-growing hatred of the regime,” the IGRC said in a statement.

Major Escalation

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.

“It is a major escalation. Ballistic missiles were openly launched from Iran onto American targets is a new phase,” Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shiite militias, told AFP. “This is probably not the only response that is going to come…. This is just a big, public one in terms of sending a signal,” he added.

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