In the first act of Iran's promised revenge for the US killing of its Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani, the Islamic republic fired missiles on Wednesday at Iraqi bases which house the US military. 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."
Iran's supreme leader said a "slap in the face" was delivered to the United States. "Last night, a slap in the face was delivered," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state television. His remarks came after he had vowed "severe revenge" for Soleimani's killing near Baghdad international airport last week.
"One important issue is what is our duty now?" following Soleimani's assassination, said the supreme leader. "An important incident has happened. The question of revenge is another issue. Military actions in this form are not sufficient for that issue," he said, referring to the assassination. What is important is that America's corrupt presence must come to an end in this region," said Khamenei.
Iranian state television reported an attack on one base housing US personnel, saying it was in response to Friday's killing of Soleimani, a powerful general whose burial after days of mourning was completed around the time of the missile launches. Iranian television showed mourners celebrating the attack.
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.
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, reported AFP. This time, conventional, rather than guerrilla-style weapons were used and responsibility was quickly claimed.
"It is a major escalation. Ballistic missiles openly launched from Iran onto American targets is a new phase," said Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shiite militias was quoted as saying by the 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."
World reacts to escalation in US-Iran tensions
World leaders from India, China, Japan, Russia, Germany, Finland, United Arab Emirates, Australia and the United Nations have reacted with shock and concern to the ongoing escalation of tension between the two nations.
US president Donald Trump's "All is Well" tweet did not help matters much.
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
Trump did not go on an evening television to address the nation — something of an informal presidential tradition in times of foreign policy crises — in the immediate hours following Iran's missile strikes. However, he said to expect a statement early Wednesday in Washington.
Here's how the rest of the world reacted.
While the Centre has not officially remarked yet on the ongoing escalation, the Ministry of External Affairs has issued a travel advisory for all Indian citizens living in the West Asia and Gulf region. The ministry has also asked Indians to avoid all "non-essential" travel to Iraq until "further notification".
Indians living in Iraq are advised to be alert and avoid travelling within Iraq, the MEA further added. The central government has also instructed all Indian airlines to avoid airspace of Iran, Iraq and the Gulf. "Our Embassy in Baghdad and Consulate in Erbil will continue to function normally to provide all services to Indians residing in Iraq," it said.
China's foreign ministry is expressing concern about the spike in tensions in the region and said it hoped matters can swiftly "cool off."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that Beijing has called for restraint by all sides and is in close consultation with the governments involved, including at the United Nations and through China's embassy in Baghdad.
He spoke after the Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by US forces but did not address it directly. Geng also accused the US of abusing the rights of people in the region through its military actions.
A Russian lawmaker warned that a conflict between the US and Iran might lead to a nuclear war. The comments by Vladimir Dzhabarov, lawmaker with Russia’s upper house of Parliament, on Wednesday followed an Iranian missile strike at military bases in Iraq used by US forces. "Reciprocal strikes by the US and Iran may lead to an all-out war in the region," Dzhabarov said. "If Washington sees that it can’t achieve its goals, there’s a danger of a nuclear war."
The Russian lawmaker said the UN Security Council should get involved to prevent further escalation in the Middle East.
"In view of recent developments and the prevailing security situation in the region, Pakistani nationals are advised to exercise maximum caution while planning visit to Iraq at this point," a statement issued by the Imran Khan government read. The government instructed those "already in Iraq" to remain in "close contact" with the Embassy of Pakistan in Baghdad.
Germany has condemned the Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by US forces.
Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Wednesday the government "rejects this aggression in the sharpest possible terms." She told German public broadcaster ARD that "it's now particularly up to the Iranians not to engage in further escalation."
None of the German troops stationed in Iraq were injured. It joined several European countries in saying their troops in Iraq were not harmed, including France, Poland, Denmark and Finland.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned what he called Iran’s "reckless and dangerous" missile attacks on bases in Iraq, and he called for "urgent de-escalation" by Tehran and Washington. Johnson also said Soleimani "had the blood of British troops on his hands."
Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has suggested the US may have broken international law by killing Soleimani. Johnson told British lawmakers on Wednesday that "the strict issue of legality is not for the UK to determine since it was not our operation. But I think most reasonable people would accept that the United States has the right to protect its bases and its personnel."
British foreign secretary Dominic Raab has condemned the Iranian strike against bases hosting coalition forces in Iraq and urged Iran to refrain from further military action.
The Ministry of Defence on Wednesday said there were no British casualties in the attack. "We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation," Raab said. "A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh (the Islamic State group) and other terrorist groups." Coalition forces are in Iraq to train local forces to fight the extremists.
Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the defense committee during the previous Parliament, told the BBC it would be "extremely welcome" if Iran's action marked the end of tensions and both sides could "get back to talking."
Japan says it will urge governments to do their utmost to help ease tensions following an Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by US forces.
Japanese Chief Cabinet spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that his “government will coordinate with the related governments to collect intelligence while we ensure the safety of Japanese citizens in the region."
He added: "Japan will also urge all related nations to do their utmost diplomatic effort to improve the relations." He said Japan remained on track to soon deploy a warship to the Gulf to help safeguard Japanese vessels and oil tankers transiting the area.
Finland's defence forces say they received advance warning of the Iranian missile strike against bases in Iraq used by US troops. The defence forces gave no details on Wednesday, Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat reported. They added that Finnish troops at the base in Irbil that was targeted were were protected in a bomb shelter and were not hurt. Irbil is the capital of Iraq's self-governing Kurdish region.
Poland's Foreign Ministry says its ambassador to Iraq, Beata Peksa, has been evacuated to Poland for security reasons amid the rising tensions between the US and Iran.
The evacuation was at Britain's request because Poland's diplomatic mission is located in the British Embassy.
According to Poland's Foreign Ministry only the ambassador was evacuated while its embassy in Baghdad continues its work.
Poland is one of several European countries that has said their troops in Iraq were not harmed in the Iranian missile strike overnight that targeted two military bases in Iraq housing US troops.
Iraq's presidency has condemned Iranian missile strikes on two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops. Barham Saleh's office also said in a statement that the fate of US troops in Iraq is an internal matter based on legal agreements to combat the Islamic State group.
The statement adds that Iraq "has previously declared its refusal to be a starting point for aggression against any country, and also refuses to be a source of threat to any of its neighbours."
The Iraqi prime minister has publicly said US troops must leave after a drone strike killed Iran's top military commander in Baghdad, and parliament has passed a non-binding resolution pushing for withdrawal.
The United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Wednesday it is essential that the region pulls back from current "troubling" tensions. "De-escalation is both wise and necessary. A political path towards stability must follow," he said on Twitter.
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has condemned Iran's missile strike against US forces in Iraq, while a NATO official said there were no casualties among the military alliance’s personnel in the country. The Iraqi mission consists of several hundred staff from allied nations and non-NATO countries.
In a message to The Associated Press, the NATO official who was not authorised to speak publicly said they were "keeping the situation under close review." Meanwhile, in a message posted on Twitter, Stoltenberg urged Iran to refrain from further violence.
Italy has condemned Iran's missile strikes against the US-led coalition in Iraq and repeated its call for de-escalation of tensions. Italy has some 900 troops in Iraq, based in Baghdad and Irbil, that are involved in training Iraqi troops and in fighting the Islamic State group.
There has been no report from any member of the US-led coalition in Iraq about casualties among their forces.
After the US drone strike that killed Soleimani last week, Italian news reports said Italy had transferred some troops from a Baghdad base to a more secure location. Italy's foreign ministry again urged European allies to work for dialogue, according to a statement.
The Syrian government is expressing full solidarity with Iran, saying Tehran has the right to defend itself "in the face of American threats and attacks."
The foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Syria holds the "American regime responsible for all the repercussions due to its reckless policy and arrogant mentality."
Syria is Iran's strongest ally in the Arab world, and Tehran sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters to join President Bashar Assad's forces in the country's civil war.
Slovenia's defence ministry says its six soldiers stationed in northern Iraq with a German-led training mission will be evacuated after their base came under Iran's missile attack. The Slovenian ministry said Wednesday the soldiers were unhurt in the attack near Irbil as they were in the base's shelter during the strike.
The ministry said the evacuation will be conducted "in cooperation with the German partners." It did not say where the soldiers will go.
Turkey's foreign minister will visit Iraq on Thursday as part of diplomatic efforts to "alleviate the escalated tension" in the region, a ministry statement said. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also spoke with his Iranian counterpart Wednesday after Iran fired more than 20 missiles. Turkey has called for calm and expressed concern about regional security after the US drone strike. Turkey shares a border with Iran and Iraq and is engaged militarily in northern Iraq against Kurdish militants.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says all of his country's troops and diplomatic staff in Iraq are safe after Iran's firing of missiles at two military bases. Around 300 Australian defense personnel are stationed in Iraq.
Morrison said he spoke with President Donald Trump about the situation between the US and Iran on Tuesday during a call about the wildfires raging in Australia. Sepaking to reporters, Morrison said in reference to the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani: “The United States have taken the action that they have to address what has been intelligence that they say that they received, which was putting their interests at risks and under threat."
New Zealand's acting prime minister Winston Peters expressed concern over the escalation in hostilities between Iran and the US. Quoting Peter, Al Jazeera reported, "Now is the time for restraint and de-escalation, and for diplomacy to take over....the government has been informed that all New Zealand personnel are as safe as they can be in these developing circumstances."
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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2020 20:48:38 IST