Iran attacks bases housing US troops
Iran-backed Shiite militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq said it was time for Iraq to respond to the US strike that killed general Qasem Soleimani and the Deputy leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The media office of Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the militia group, posted the following statement on Twitter on Wednesday:
The preliminary Iranian response to the assassination of the martyr leader Soleimani took place. Now is the time for the initial Iraqi response to the assassination of the martyr leader al-Muhandis [an Iraqi militia leader who was killed in the same strike].”
“The Iraqi response will not be less than the size of the Iranian response, and this is a promise,” Qais al-Khazali also said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the final answer to the killing of Iran's top general Qasem Soleimani was "to kick all US forces out of the region."
Rouhani tweeted on Wednesday, saying that if it wasn't for Soleimani's war on terror, "European capitals would be in great danger now."
Iraq received "an official verbal message" from Iran shortly after midnight and prior to the missile attacks, according to a statement from Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi.
The statement said:
Shortly after midnight on Wednesday 8/1/2020, we received an official verbal message from the Islamic Republic of Iran that the Iranian response to the assassination of the martyr Qassem Soleimani had begun or would begin shortly, and that the strike would be limited to the whereabouts of the US military in Iraq without giving the exact location.
Abdul Mahdi said that once Iraq received information from the Iranian side, they warned Iraqi military leaders "to take the necessary precautions."
The missiles hit Iraq between 1:45 am and 2:15 am local, according to an earlier statement released by Iraqi military.
Abdul Mahdi was making the necessary internal and external contacts in an attempt to contain the situation and not enter into an open-ended war, his office said, adding: "Iraq and the region will be among the first victims."
"Iraq refuses any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its lands, the government continues its efforts to prevent escalation. This serious crisis threatening the region and the world with a devastating war," the statement read.
Benjamin Netanyahu issued an unequivocal warning to Iran not to attack Israel.
He said he spoke for many of Israel’s neighbors in reiterating his strong support for the US killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, a man the Israeli Prime Minister described as Iran’s “terrorist-in-chief.”
Addressing a conference in Jerusalem Wednesday morning, just hours after Iran launched a missile attack on military bases in Iraq housing US troops -- and amid renewed Iranian threats to hit Israeli cities -- the Israeli Prime Minister said, “Anyone who tries to attack us will suffer the most devastating blow.”
Netanyahu went on:
Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the death of countless people, he destabilized many countries for decades, and he was planning much worse. President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly boldly and resolutely against this terrorist in chief, who was the architect and driver of Iran’s campaign of carnage and terror throughout the Middle East and the world. What I am saying here today openly, and what I have said in recent days, many, many leaders in the Middle East think."
He added, “Israel stands completely besides the United States … America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel has no better friend than the United States of America.”
The energy minister of the United Arab Emirates said Wednesday that OPEC is ready to respond as tensions rise in the Middle East, saying that no country can afford a return to a situation where crude oil costs $100 per barrel.
Suhail Al Mazrouei told CNN Business that the cartel would seek to ensure that ample energy supplies are available to the global economy even as the United States and Iran exchange blows in a conflict that could further destabilize the volatile region.
“We will always make sure that we supply the world with whatever it requires,” al Mazrouei said, adding that the United Arab Emirates was building spare capacity in order to avoid shortages.
Still, the energy minister cautioned that even OPEC and its allies don’t have unlimited resources. “We have limitations as well,” he said, saying that the group “cannot just replace any quantity” of supply that is taken offline.
Al Mazrouei suggested that Iran, itself a major oil producer, would avoid attacks on shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway that allows oil tankers to move crude from the Persian Gulf to global markets.
“The Strait of Hormuz is not only important for us, it is important for the world economy and the whole supply chain, and Iran understands that,” said al Mazrouei. “The world economy cannot sustain another $100 oil price and another huge spike.”
Brent crude futures, the global benchmark, briefly topped $70 per barrel on Wednesday after Iran launched missiles at two Iraqi military bases that house US troops.
The European Union has urged all sides to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the use of weapons “must stop now” in order to de-escalate tensions and “give space to dialogue” on the situation in Iran and Iraq.
Speaking during a joint press conference with EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell, she said:
The current crisis affects not only the region, but all of us. The use of weapons must stop now to give space to dialogue.”
Borrell described recent developments in Iran, Iraq and the region as a whole as “extremely worrying,” and warned that an escalation in violence could jeopardise the work of the "Anti-Daesh Coalition," another name for ISIS.
The latest rocket attacks on airbases in Iraq used by the US and Coalition forces, among them European forces, are yet another example of escalation and increased confrontation.
The current situation puts at risk the efforts of the past years and also has implications for the important work of the Anti-Daesh Coalition.”
Borrell also reiterated the EU’s commitment to safeguarding the Iran nuclear deal, confirming that he has invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Brussels for talks on the ongoing situation.
Meanwhile, NATO is monitoring the situation in Iraq and has been in touch with US authorities, an alliance official told CNN on Wednesday.
A Dubai-based western private security source with staff at the al-Asad and Erbil military bases told CNN there were “no casualties” in Wednesday's Iranian missile attack.
“To be honest, rocket attacks are nothing new to us. It is business as usual,” the source told CNN.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "this region does not accept [the] US presence" in a televised address to the nation Wednesday in Qom following the strikes on US targets in Iraq.
Speaking in front of a packed hall, Khamenei praised killed General Qasem Soleimani, calling him "brave" adding, he "had no fear." Many in the audience were seen weeping and chanting angrily throughout his speech.
Khamenei said that Soleimani's death means "a revolution is alive."
The Supreme Leader also warned the US against further attacks: "If you hit, you get hit back."
They know this. They know that if they get themselves involved in a confrontation with us and get entangled in a military way, they will get their feet trapped. They might harm us, but they will harm themselves many times more, and they realize that."
This post was updated to correct the location where Khamenei was speaking.
More airlines are suspending flights over Iranian and/or Iraqi air space.
Air France announced Wednesday it has has paused all flights over the two countries' air space until further notice.
The airline says the decision was a precautionary measure and that it was constantly monitoring the situation to “ensure the highest level of flight safety.”
Germany's Lufthansa said it cancelled flights to Tehran and Erbil due to current incidents in Iraq.
Other major airlines took similar steps earlier. Singapore Airlines said in a statement Wednesday that its flights into and out of Europe have been diverted from Iranian airspace, adding that it was "monitoring the situation closely and will make the appropriate adjustments to our routes if necessary."
Taiwan's EVA Air said the carrier's European flights began avoiding flying over Iran early Wednesday morning Taiwan time to ensure safety.
Malaysia Airlines said in a statement Wednesday that due to recent events, it "will be avoiding the conflict airspace of Iran."
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice restricting non-military US aircraft "from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman."
The Russian Federal Air Transport Agency issued a recommendation to all Russian airlines to avoid using Iranian and Iraqi airspace, state-run news agency TASS reports.