Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has characterized his revolutionary guards' missile attacks on U.S. bases as "a slap in the face of the United States," but stressed that "such military actions are not enough. The corruptive presence of the U.S. in the West Asian region must be stopped."
Khamenei who spoke Wednesday morning January 8, added: "The U.S. has caused wars, division, sedition, destruction, and the demolition of infrastructures in this region. They do this everywhere in the world."
He stressed that "This region won’t accept the U.S. presence. Governments elected by nations won’t accept the presence of the U.S."
Since the targeted killing of his right-hand general, Qassem Soleimani by an American drone strike January 3, Khamenei has been telling both his domestic followers and regional proxies that the final goal should be to evict the United States from the region.
Elsewhere in the Wednesday morning speech, he said the "Enemies were humbled by the magnificence of the Iranian nation’s turnout for the funeral of Martyr Soleimani. They may not admit it, but they have no other option but to accept it."
Khamenei added according to his official website: "The lying, rambling U.S. government – whose words are worthless – tried to introduce Soleimani as a terrorist. The Iranian nation slapped them in the face with their turnout in the millions for the funeral of General Soleimani."
The IRGC broke the news about the missile attacks on two U.S. bases in Iraq early Wednesday morning.
Iran says the attacks were carried out in retaliation for the lethal strike that killed IRGC Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad at the order of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Following the Iranian missile attacks on two U.S. sites in Ain al-Asad and Arbil, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the operation a "proportionate" act of "self defense" compliant with Article 51 of the UN Charter.
He made it clear in a tweet that Iran does not "seek escalation or war," but will defend itself against any aggression. He added that Iran has targeted " base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched."
Zarif reiterated the same position in a video released by the Rouhani administration.
Earlier, Tasnim news agency had quoted the Chief of the Joint Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces major General Mohammad Bqeri as having said that "the U.S. should take last night's attack as a warning and only as a small part of the Iranian forces' capabilities."
Baqeri added that "any further attack by the United States will face a much stronger destructive reaction."
In another report, Tasnim quoted an unnamed military official as having said that up to 80 U.S. military personnel were killed in the attack on Ain Al-Asad base in Western Iraq. No other source outside Iran has verified the report on casualties. U.S. officials say there have been no casualties reported and according to the Iraqi Prime Minister's spokesman, there have been no reports of casualties from either the Iraqi military or the U.S.-led coalition.
The Rouhani administration's Twitter account posted a video in which he says "They cut off our dear Soleimani's hands. In retaliation we will cut off the United States' feet from this region."
However, Iranian commentators abroad speaking on Persian-language TV channels take the lack of American casualties as a sign that Iran’s missile attack was not a serious counter-punch. They even speculate that the operation was designed to be more symbolic than punitive.
At the same time, Khamenei who lost he trusted military man needed a symbolic victory to protect the regime’s credibility among domestic and foreign supporters. Considering the missile attack from that perspective, perhaps he has gained enough by the attack not to engage in further escalation.
While many Iranians spent the night fearing a counter-attack by the United States, their feeling of relief did not last long in the morning as a Ukrainian airliner crashed 6 minutes after taking off from the Tehran airport, with its parts falling on people's houses southwest of Tehran. All on board, including around 140 Iranians, many university students, and many foreign nationals died instantaneously.
Some Iranians on social media speculate that the aircraft may have been hit by a missile, although according to IRGC, the missile attacks were launched from Western Iran near Kermanshah. Others fear that nervous anti-aircraft crews might have opened fire at the Boeing 737-800. So far, no official reason has been given for the tragedy in which 176 people lost their lives, as the cause of the crash is being investigated.