Iran attacks bases housing US troops

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10:16 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Swedish and Finnish leaders urge de-escalation

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime minister Stefan Lofven give a press conference following a meeting in Stockholm, Sweden on January 8.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime minister Stefan Lofven give a press conference following a meeting in Stockholm, Sweden on January 8. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

The leaders of Sweden and Finland have condemned the Iranian strikes against military bases in Iraq on Wednesday.

Speaking at a joint news conference today, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that "dialogue [and] de-escalation of the situation" are needed.

"We need to condemn all attacks on peace keeping troops so that is the important thing for us,

Löfven said

Finland's new Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who is visiting Sweden, also urged de-escalation.

"We need to find ways for a dialogue, we need to find a way for peaceful progress from now on and we need to look to the future, forward from now on."

"The situation is very difficult," Marin said, adding: "I think Finland and Sweden are also trying to find a way to build dialogue together with the whole EU."

9:21 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Iraqi Parliament speaker calls Iran strikes a "violation of Iraqi sovereignty"

Iraq Council of Representatives Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi speaks in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2019.
Iraq Council of Representatives Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi speaks in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2019. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Mohammed al-Halbousi, the speaker of Iraqi Parliament, called on the Iraqi government to preserve Iraq's sovereignty from violations and prevent the country from slipping into the spiral of conflict.

In a statement released by the speaker's office, al-Halbousi urged all parties to "exercise restraint and wisdom."

He called the Iranian strikes against bases in Iraq a "violation of Iraqi sovereignty."

"We affirm our absolute refusal to allow the conflicting parties to try to use the Iraqi arena to settle their scores," al-Halbousi said in the statement.

He continued: "We renew our call on the Iraqi government to take the necessary political, legal and security measures to stop such attacks and work to preserve Iraqi sovereignty from these violations, and keep Iraq away from the ongoing conflict and not to be part or an arena for the  fighting, or a party to any regional or international conflict."

8:42 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

US Ambassador to Israel says US military is "the strongest in the world"

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that the “initial assessments" following the Iranian strikes "are positive, and we pray those reports are true.” 

Speaking this morning at a conference in Jerusalem, Friedman said:

Our military is by far the strongest in the world, and our cause is just. We pray to God that we will prevail overwhelmingly and without loss of innocent life, and I am confident, that with our president’s leadership, we will defeat the great threats of our time and bring about a more just and more peaceful world.
9:29 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Catch up: What we know so far about the attacks on bases housing US troops

n fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing US troops overnight. If you're just getting read in, here's what we know so far:

  • No casualties: A US official told CNN that there were no initial reports of any US casualties from the attack, but an assessment of the impact of the strikes is underway. Iraq's joint military command said there were no casualties among Iraqi military forces.
  • Iran warned Iraq before the strike: Iraq received "an official verbal message" from Iran about the missile attack before it happened. Iraq said the warning was reportedly passed to the US.
  • The motive: The attack was retaliation by Iran after its top general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.The rockets pose a direct challenge to Trump, who just yesterday issued a threat to Iran: "If Iran does anything that it shouldn't be doing, they will be suffering the consequences and very strongly," the President said.
  • How the US is responding: President Trump is expected to address the nation this morning. On Twitter, he said that "all is well!"
8:15 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Soleimani "had the blood of British troops on his hands," Boris Johnson says

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Qasem Soleimani, the top Iranian military leader who was killed by the US in Baghdad last week, had the “blood of British troops on his hands.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, Johnson defended what he has called the United States' “right to protect” its bases and personnel.

Johnson said:

Qasem Soleimani was responsible for many years – amongst other things – of arming the Houthis with missiles, with which they attacked innocent civilians; arming Hezbollah with missiles, which again they used to attack innocent civilians; sustaining the Assad regime in Syria – one of the most brutal and barbaric regimes in the world; and, of course, supplying improvised explosive devices to terrorists who, I’m afraid, killed and maimed British troops.

“That man had the blood of British troops on his hands,” the prime minister added.

Johnson asserted that the issue of legality “is not for the UK to determine,” but added that the US “has the right to protect its bases and its personnel” in the region.

8:14 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Iran's strikes may be a smart diplomatic move

Iran’s choice of target is significant. If it wanted to kill lots of American soldiers in Iraq there were easier bases to strike.

I’ve been to al-Asad airbase – it’s vast and it’s remote. Strikes there could find plenty of dead ground away from troop bunkers and would have little risk of civilian collateral killings.

Iraqi military commanders had been warned by Iran to stay away from US bases and US officials confirm their troops, too, had adequate warning to shelter from the attack.

Iran is trying to have its cake and eat it. Create the impression of a fearsome strike for domestic consumption without actually risking escalation.

So far, it’s working — soon after the ballistic missiles slammed into the base, President Trump tweeted “all is well,” “so far, so good.”

(File photo) Iranian lawmakers vote during a parliamentary session in Tehran.
(File photo) Iranian lawmakers vote during a parliamentary session in Tehran. Photo: ICANA NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images

There is one message for the international community and another for the Iranians who flocked to the streets for Qasem Soleimani’s funeral.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, called the strike “proportional,” while the theocracy’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told cheering crowds in Tehran it was a “crushing” blow.

Other Iranian officials speaking for international consumption say there is no need for further strikes unless the US escalates the situation. Meanwhile, some Iranian news outlets are ramping up propaganda, claiming the killing of many US troops when every reliable source says no US troops were killed.

A full US battle damage assessment has begun, and Trump is expected to speak later Wednesday, but every indication so far points toward a military off-ramp moment.

How diplomacy picks up is hard to say. In many ways the situation is back to where it was in the minutes before Soleimani’s killing.

The question will be — and this was always the gamble in killing the architect and inspiration of Iran’s overseas aggression — will the ayatollahs now decide they can’t get away with the attacks as they did, or do they believe their own domestic hype, and that it is for the US to back down on sanctions and pull out of the region.

Regardless of what they or the White House believe, the door to de-escalation has opened a crack — diplomacy might just slip into the room.

8:07 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Germany: "We call on Iran to refrain from any steps that could lead to further escalation"

The German Foreign Ministry condemned the Iranian strikes on military bases hosting coalition forces in Iraq.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said today on Twitter:

We condemn the Iranian missile attack on Iraqi military bases where coalition forces are also stationed. We call on Iran to refrain from any steps that could lead to further escalation. We have been in contact with all sides for the past few days and are working to help de-escalate the situation. We call on all sides to exercise calm and restraint.”

Germany has announced earlier it would temporarily withdraw some troops from Iraq. The German Defense Ministry told CNN yesterday that about 35 soldiers from Baghdad and Taji have been moved to Kuwait and Jordan.

Other German troops remain, for example in Erbil, in a training fashion, the spokesman said.

8:03 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Here's why Iran's strikes may have intentionally avoided US casualties

Iran's missile strikes against bases in Iraq housing American troops were not an act designed to kill the most Americans possible.

Iran would have known that US troops are normally asleep in the early hours of the morning, and the chances of inflicting casualties are lower.

It will also have known the US has a strong air defense that would likely have been on high alert. Tehran should have a grasp of how well its missiles would fare against such technology.

The missile attacks don't make sense if Iran's goal was to really hurt US troops in large numbers — as some had been pledging to do.

They do make sense, however, as the execution of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's order to strike back openly against US military targets in response to the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

Khamenei's instruction was confusing when first reported, as the US would be bound to prevail in a straight military-to-military conflict. Was the Supreme Leader ordering an empty show of force?

The Iranian strikes targeted bases in Iraq that house US troops.
The Iranian strikes targeted bases in Iraq that house US troops. Map: CNN

Read the full analysis here.

8:00 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Iranian news claims Americans were killed, without providing any evidence

Without providing any evidence to support their claim, Iranian media are reporting that “80 US military personnel have been killed” and more than “200 US military personnel were injured” in the missile attack on two Iraqi military bases.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence source told Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency today, that "early estimates indicate heavy US casualties in Iran's missile attack," again without showing any evidence. 

Remember: There has been no official statement from the Pentagon or any US officials, but a US official has told CNN that there are no reports of US casualties at this time. An assessment is still underway. Iraqi security officials also say there are no casualties among Iraqi security forces.

About Fars News: It is a semi-official news agency. Unlike press TV it is not state run, but it is known to have close ties to the IRGC and frequently reports stories that Tehran would approve of. Fars is known for its triumphant propaganda, often portraying the strength of the Iranian military in a favorable light.