Iraq(ANN)-Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said Wednesday that it targeted Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq, a facility jointly operated by US and Iraqi forces, with “tens of missiles”.
Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport early Friday.
“In Operation Martyr Soleimani in the early hours of Wednesday, tens of ground-to-ground missiles were fired at the US base and successfully pounded Ain al-Asad Base,” the IRGC said in an official statement.
It said the shelling “is merely the beginning of a series of revenge attacks with no deadline for when it ends,” it said.
“We warn all allied countries of the US that if attacks are launched from bases in their countries on Iran, they will be a target of military retaliation,” it added.
A second wave of missile attacks against American forces in Iraq has begun, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency announced.
Saudi’s Deputy Defence Minister Khalid Bin Salman met with US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and the Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, separately to discuss the possible measures to maintain stability in the region and military cooperation, on Monday.
Sources said the meeting came as Riyadh fears it will become the target of attacks following the assassination of Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Friday.
CNN quoted an unnamed Saudi government source saying that during the meeting with Pompeo, Khaled Bin Salman “will call for restraint”.
The source added: “We do not want chaos in the region. We used to be targeted before (…) and we may be targeted again.”
He noted that the Saudi government was unaware that Soleimani was delivering a message for Saudi on the day of his death as Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi claimed on Sunday.
The push for the to carry out the unexpected assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last week did not come from the expected corners within the Pentagon, Anadolu reports.
It came from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who played the lead role in the decision to kill the chief architect of Iran’s regional operations, according to independent analyst and historian Mark Perry, who spoke to Anadolu Agency following a panel discussion hosted by the SETA Foundation think-tank.
The top diplomat has been advocating for a tougher posture on Iran dating back to his time serving in the Congress and has continued the push through each of the positions he has held within the Trump administration, including his tenure as CIA director.
Pompeo has “been a veteran anti-Iran warrior for many, many years. He’s very pro-Israeli. He does believe that Iran’s been a malign influence in the region,” Perry said.
“That he would be pushing this policy, I don’t think is a surprise, but that he’s been the advocate for something so kinetic, so violent, has backfooted some people in the military who wonder if his influence is too broad, too deep and too great in this administration,” he added.
Soleimani was killed by a airstrike early Friday morning near Baghdad International Airport.
The operation capped a series of tit-for-tat recriminations between the and Iran-backed forces that began with the killing of an American contractor at a base in Iraq late last month. The retaliated with airstrikes on the Iran-backed militia it says is responsible for conducting the attack, killing dozens. The embassy in Baghdad was then attacked last Tuesday by a group of enraged militiamen and demonstrators.
Officials have placed blame for the attacks on the embassy and base squarely on Soleimani’s shoulders, claiming if the airstrike that killed him was not carried out, hundreds more American lives would have been lost.
The Trump administration, however, has so far refused to make public any intelligence it has to back its claims of an imminent threat to American lives.
When asked about the stated reasoning which his department repeatedly pointed to in readouts of phone calls Pompeo had with foreign leaders in the wake of the Soleimani airstrike, the top diplomat demurred, pointing to the series of attacks that already took place.
“We know what happened at the end of last year in December, ultimately leading to the death of an American. If you are looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that led up to the strike,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “Imminence,” however, refers to things that are about to occur, not events that already happened.
“Then you, in addition to that, have, what we can clearly see were continuing efforts on behalf of this terrorist to build out a network of campaign activities that were going to lead potentially to the death of many more Americans,” he added, without elaborating on the intelligence. He maintained the strike was “completely legal.”
Soleimani’s killing has put the and Iran on the brink of war, and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has vowed to take revenge for the death of the man on whom he bestowed the country’s highest honor last year.
The central role that Pompeo played in the decision to carry out the strike has led to the consternation of some within the Pentagon, according to Perry, who suggested Pompeo has “inserted himself into the chain of command in the military.”
“There is some discomfort that the people who are in the chain of command are somewhat marginalized and that there’s great deference paid to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,” Perry said while addressing the SETA panel.
“Pompeo is the deputy president of the United States. He is the most powerful figure in the administration. He is the most influential. He has the president’s ear,” added Perry. “He is without peer in this administration.”
Previous administrations, including those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, declined to kill Soleimani out of concern that his death could quickly lead to a broader confrontation with Iran that would rapidly escalate and spiral out of control.
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who served as a CIA analyst and senior Pentagon official for the Middle East under the Bush and Obama administrations, said the central question being asked under those presidents was whether his killing would be “worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict.”
“The two administrations I worked for both determined that the ultimate ends didn’t justify the means. The Trump administration has made a different calculation,” she said on Twitter shortly after Soleimani’s death was publicly confirmed. “The Iranian government has vowed to retaliate and avenge Soleimani’s death, and could do so in any number of ways.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targeted the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq, a facility jointly operated by and Iraqi forces, with dozens of missiles early Wednesday morning in what the corps called “merely the beginning of a series of revenge attacks with no deadline for when it ends.”
“We warn all allied countries of the that if attacks are launched from bases in their countries on Iran, they will be a target of military retaliation,” the organization added in a statement.
Soleimani served as the head of the corps’ elite Quds Force before he was killed.
This report remains unconfirmed.
The tweet reads: We thank and support the successful operation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in order to fulfill its honest promise. Where the attack took place was a legitimate response. We have not sought war, but any other aggression will have a tougher response.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it would ban carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia after Iran launched a missile attack on -led forces in Iraq.
Several foreign airlines said they would now avoid flying over the affected areas.
Tehran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles from Iranian territory against at least two Iraqi military bases hosting -led coalition personnel, the military said on Tuesday.
The FAA said it issued the airspace ban “due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to civil aviation operations.”
Several non- airlines had flights over parts of Iraq and Iran at the time, according to FlightRadar24 data. They are not directly affected by the FAA ban, but foreign carriers and their national regulators typically consider advice carefully when deciding where to fly.
Before the latest guidance, the FAA had already prohibited carriers from flying below 26,000 feet over Iraq and from flying over an area of Iranian airspace above the Gulf and Gulf of Oman since Iran shot down a high-altitude drone last June.
Carriers are increasingly taking steps to limit threats to their planes after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in 2014 by a missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Re-routing around conflict airspace adds to flight times and burns extra fuel.
Korean Air Lines Co Ltd and Thai Airways said they had been avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace before the attack on troops.
Singapore Airlines Ltd said after the attacks that all of its flights would be diverted from Iranian airspace. Malaysia Airlines said it did not fly over Iraqi airspace and would re-route to avoid Iran as a result of the attack. Taiwan’s China Airlines said it would not fly over Iran or Iraq because of the regional tensions.
OPSGROUP, which advises airlines on security threats, said the new airspace bans were “significant”, particularly given that the entire overwater airspace in the region is now unavailable.
“Flights headed to/from the main airports in the region such as Dubai will now need to route through Saudi Arabia’s airspace,” it said on its website.
An international aviation team has been activated to support “effective coordination and communication” between airlines and countries as tensions mount in the Middle East after a drone strike killed an Iranian military commander, global airlines body IATA said on Tuesday.
Airlines and the United Nations’ aviation agency have started to monitor strategic airspace over Iran and Iraq. With some commercial carriers still serving those countries and others flying over their airspace, the International Air Transport Association also issued a statement reminding countries of their obligation to communicate potential risks to civil aviation.
“It is critical that states live up to this obligation as tensions in the Middle East rise,” the group said, days after the killing of General Qassem Soleimani on Friday plunged the region into a new crisis.
The coordination team operated by IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was activated as a “standard precautionary measure,” in the event that contingency measures are required by airlines, IATA said in a statement to Reuters.
The team brings together airlines, regulators and air navigation service providers to ensure any potential risks to aviation are shared quickly, an industry source familiar with the group said.
“Everyone’s urging restraint,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The Philippines has ordered a mandatory evacuation for Filipinos in Iraq, its foreign ministry said on Wednesday, after Iran attacked American forces there in response to a strike that killed an Iranian general last week, Reuters reports.
“The Alert Level in the entire Iraq has been raised to Alert Level 4 calling for mandatory evacuation,” said Eduardo Menez, spokesman at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Iran’s missile attack on -led forces in Iraq came in the early hours of Wednesday, hours after the funeral of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the country’s elite Quds Force who was killed in a drone strike on Jan. 3.
A US military official has suggested that there was sufficient warning of the impending attacks to sound alarms and evacuate the targeted bases, CNN reports.
A Boeing 737 belonging to Ukraine International Airlines has crashed due to technical problems after take-off from Iran’s Imam Khomeini airport with 180 passengers and crew aboard, the semi-official Fars news agency tweeted on Wednesday.
The oil market has responded to the upsurge in tensions with price spikes. According to market watchers WTI jumped 4% before falling back slightly after the strikes.
Iraqi security officials have told CNN there are no casualties among Iraqi security forces following the attacks on the al-Asad airbase in Anbar province and the attacks in Erbil.
Australia Prime Minister Morrison has said that all Australian diplomatic and military staff in Iraq are safe.
Additionally, the Canadian armed forces has tweeted:
University of Ottawa Academic, a former advisor to Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has tweeted that the language used by Iranian Foreign Minister and US President Donald Trump suggest possible de-escalation of tensions.
Verified Twitter user ‘The Age’ has provided a useful map of tonight’s events:
Florida Senator and former GOP Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio has commented on tonights attacks, saying that the US was prepared for Iran’s rockets.
Democrats in the Congress and some of the party’s presidential contenders warned on Tuesday about escalating conflict in the Middle East after Iran launched a retaliatory missile strike against forces in Iraq, Reuters reports.
The news that Tehran had fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles against at least two Iraqi military bases hosting -led coalition personnel broke during a meeting of Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives.
The attack was in retaliation for last week’s drone strike killing elite Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, according to a statement from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on state TV.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was handed a note about the attack during the meeting and left soon thereafter, according to people present.
“Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting troops in Iraq. We must ensure the safety of our service members, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war,” Pelosi said on Twitter.
President Donald Trump ordered the attack on Soleimani on the grounds that the Iranian general was planning to attack Americans, without providing evidence.
Democrats have been critical of the decision, saying it would escalate tensions with Iran. They have called for Trump to seek approval from Congress before taking further military action, although the Republican-led Senate is unlikely to support any measure that would tie the president’s hands.
“At this moment, my heart and my prayers are with our military and their families in Iraq and around the world,” Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren said at an event in New York.
“But this is a reminder why we need to de-escalate tension in the Middle East. The American people do not want a war with Iran,” she added.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, another candidate for the Democratic nomination to take on Trump in November’s presidential election, said at an event outside Philadelphia that the attack was predictable and faulted Trump’s handling of the situation.
“I just pray to God as he goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case,” he added.
On news of the attack, “there was not surprise in the room,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who attended the meeting with Pelosi.
“Nobody laments the loss of Soleimani, he was a vicious terrorist that caused a lot of loss of life. But no one ought to be surprised that when you do that, there’s a response,” he said.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio called for unity, saying in a Twitter post that Iran wanted Americans to turn against one another .
“The time will come to debate policy. Tonight American & allied troops have come under direct attack by a nation-state & Americans must come together to support & protect them & respond appropriately,” he said.
US President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to comment on the unfolding events in Iran and Iraq. Earlier press reports explained that the US president will not make a formal statement on the matter.
Iranian Foreign Minister has tweeted that the Iranian attack on US-led targets in Iraq is proportionate and an act of self defence, citing Article 51 of the UN Charter: