The Pentagon said Tuesday that Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases that hold US troops in response to the US airstrike that killed a top Iranian general last week.
The attack comes days after the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The administration has sought to cast that strike as an attempt to de-escalate tensions with Iran, but Tehran has vowed revenge for the killing, which it says was an "act of war" and "state terrorism."
Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Tuesday evening that Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at the al-Asad airbase, which houses US troops, and American and coalition forces in the town of Erbil. Hoffman said the Pentagon is assessing the damage done by the attacks.
"In recent days and in response to Iranian threats and actions, the Department of Defense has taken all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners," Hoffman said in a statement. "These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region."
"As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region."
Qatri al-Obeidi, a commander in the nearby town of al-Baghdadi, said that the shelling has stopped for now. President Donald Trump visited the base in December 2018 to visit troops after Christmas. Vice President Mike Pence also visited the base in November 2019. The attack follows last week's deadly US drone strike that Trump ordered to kill Soleimani.
Iranian state TV reported that the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, "has hit U.S. Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq with tens of missiles." The IRGC warned the US of of more "crushing responses in case of new aggression," according to state TV. The IRGC said it will target any regional state that becomes a platform for US aggression, a second banner on state TV read.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper's office called the office of the Prime Minister of Iraq at around 7 pm ET on Tuesday, according to a diplomatic source. There were difficulties getting through as it was the middle of the night in Baghdad. Eventually the two offices were able to connect and the source says there has been "communication between the US and Iraqi governments at the highest level."
Iran openly taking credit for the missiles against an Iraqi base with US troops is a big deal, Iranian state TV warning that anyone supporting the US in attacking Iran, like say, Iraq or Saudi Arabia (or possibly Israel, Turkey, Kuwait or Bahrain) will be attacked too is a much, much bigger deal.
Some sort of diplomatic effort right now would be ideal, but if Trump decides to flatten a major chunk of Tehran with a couple score Tomahawks, all bets are off.
The next step after this up the ladder is actual war, guys. Trump won't give a damn about any AUMF or what Congress thinks. If he's not reined in right now, tonight, we're going to war.
I hate being right.