President Donald Trump tweeted his reaction to the Iranian ballistic missile attacks on multiple locations in Iraq on January 8, including an airbase that houses U.S. troops, and said he would make a statement the next day.
In his tweet Trump said: "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!"
The U.S. President who held a meeting with his security team following the launch of the Iranian missiles, had earlier postponed an announced statement.
"We have the most powerful and well-equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning," the U.S. President said in the tweet.
Trump had in recent days repeatedly threatened Iran that any attack or threat would solicit a strong U.S. reaction, but there was no hint of a U.S. response in the hours following the Iranian action.
Tehran said the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) fired "tens" of ballistic missiles at U.S. targets inside Iraq in revenge for the targeted killing of the Qods Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani last week in an American drone attack.
Nearly simultaneously with Trump, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif also tweeted about the missile attack. "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," he tweeted.
Zarif also stated that Iran does not seek escalation or war, but will defend itself against any aggression.
“The President [Donald Trump] has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team," the White House told reporters based on a media report.
Iran's ballistic missiles were aimed at Al-Assad airbase, 160 km (100 miles) west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, and a base in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. No American casualties have been reported.
“We are working on initial battle damage assessments,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement".
The multiple attacks came hours after Soleimani was buried in his hometown on January 7 where more than 70 had died earlier in the day in a stampede during his funeral procession. Iran’s military leaders and pro-Iranian factions in Iraq have vowed to avenge his death.
In its statement, the Revolutionary Guard, which claimed the attack immediately, warned all U.S. allies that they would be a target of military retaliation if attacks were launched from bases in their countries on Iran and called on Americans to recall all their soldiers back home to prevent more damage.
The missiles struck multiple locations in Iraq early on January 8, including Al-Assad, an airbase that houses U.S. troops, and Harir Camp to the north of Erbil.
Assistant to the US Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that Iran launched "a dozen ballistic missiles" approximately at 22:30 GMT on January 7.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said it was in retaliation for the killing of Qods (Quds) Force Commander General Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. drone attack last week.
“Tens of surface-to-surface missiles” were fired at the strategic airbase, the statement said.
Iran's IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency reported that the missiles were probably of Fateh 313 type considering the distance between Kermanshah Province where the missiles were launched and their targets in Iraq. Fateh 313 missiles are road-mobile single-stage solid-fueled surface-to-surface missile with a range of 500 km.
Al-Assad is a joint American and Iraqi base located in Al-Anbar Governorate of western Iraq. The base is also used by British armed forces in Iraq.
A day earlier in Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that he anticipated Iran would retaliate for the death of Soleimani "in some way, shape, or form." "We're prepared for any contingency. And then we will respond appropriately to whatever they do," he warned.
Oil prices spiked Wednesday and Tokyo stocks plunged as investors took fright at escalating tensions between the United States and Iran after Tehran launched missile attacks on US forces in Iraq, AFP reported.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a televised speech that the attack was "a slap in the face" delivered to the United States. Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that Washington might have "cut off the arm" of Soleimani but America's "leg" in the region would be cut off in response, according to Iran's Fars news agency.
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami told state television that should Washington retaliate, Iran would respond with "proportional" force.
"We used short range missiles ... I hope this will be a memorable lesson for America," Hatami said.
"Iran's response (to any U.S. retaliation) will be proportional to what America will do," he said, adding that Trump "has turned the (U.S.) Administration into a terrorist government."
Following the attack, several major airlines, including Air France and Germany's Lufthansa, said on January 8 that they were re-routing flights to avoid airspace over Iraq and Iran, while the Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. carriers from the area.
The multiple attacks came hours after Soleimani was buried in his hometown on January 7.
Iran's military leaders and pro-Iranian factions in Iraq had vowed to avenge his death.
"We're prepared for any contingency. And then we will respond appropriately to whatever they do," he warned.
Professor Stephen David of Johns Hopkins University told Voice of America that while Iran's retaliation wasn't unexpected, it was surprising that Tehran chose to launch the attack from its own territory, therefore making it undeniable, and use ballistic missiles -- a weapon substantially more powerful than a rocket.
"I think it was surprising that the attack was from Iran. It was not at all deniable," David said. "It was clear what the source of the attack was; the fact they use ballistic missiles also was a bit of a surprise, something of an escalation. That they did retaliate was not in itself a surprise," he concluded.