More than a dozen of ground-to-ground missiles were launched from Iran to Iraqi military bases where U.S. troops were stationed Wednesday. File Photo by 1st Lt. Leland White/U.S. Army National Guard
Jan. 7 (UPI) -- More than a dozen missiles launched from Iran struck two Iraqi military bases where U.S. forces were stationed Wednesday, U.S. military officials said.
The U.S. Department of Defense said ballistic missiles were fired from inside Iran toward multiple U.S. facilities in Iraq including one in Erbil and the al-Asad Air Base.
Iranian state-run news outlet ISNA reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Air Force launched the ground-to-ground missiles as part of its so-called Operation Martyr Soleimani. The operation was named after Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad's international airport early Friday Iraq time.
A Pentagon official told Newsweek the military bases were hit by cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles.
Qatri al-Obeidi, a commander for Sunni paramilitary forces in a town near the al-Asad base, told CNN the shelling stopped by about 7 p.m. EST Tuesday. Al-Asad Air Base is located in the western Iraqi province of al-Anbar.
There were some Iraqi casualties at al-Asad airbase, but no U.S. casualties were reported, according to CNN.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the agency 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. "These bases have been on high alert due to indicators that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region."
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard said in its Telegram channel that the "Pentagon reports that the U.S. will respond to Iran's attacks" adding in a footnote that "this time we will respond to you in America."
It also said that if Iranian soil is bombed it will target the cities of Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Haifa, Israel.
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted about the attacks, saying they came in response to U.S. strikes.
"Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of U.N. charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched," he wrote. "We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."
The Federal Aviation Administration issued flight restrictions prohibiting U.S. civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
"The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East. We continue coordinating with our national security partners and sharing information with U.S. air carriers and foreign civil aviation authorities," the agency said.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed on reports of the missile attacks.
"We are aware of the reports of attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq. The president has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team," she said.
Trump tweeted in response to the attack on Tuesday night, saying that "all is well" and that he will make a statement on Wednesday morning.
The attack follows a U.S. airstrike on Baghdad International Airport that killed Soleimani.
U.S. military officials accused Soleimani of developing plans to attack U.S. diplomats and service members in the Middle East. Washington held him responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. and coalition service members and a Dec. 27 attack on a northern Iraqi military base in which a U.S. contractor was killed.
The United States also accused Soleimani of approving a recent attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad protesting U.S. airstrikes against the Kata'ib Hezbollah militia, one of several mostly Shiite militias backed by Iran, in response to the Dec. 27 attack.
Trump on Sunday threatened to hit 52 targets in Iran "very hard" if Tehran retaliates for the death of Soleimani, including some targets "at a very high level" that are "important to Iran and the Iranian culture."
In the wake of the airstrike that killed Soleaimani and the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq's Parliament voted unanimously to expel foreign troops from the country, prompting Trump to threaten sanctions.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday that there has been "no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq" in response to a letter seeming to indicate the withdrawal of troops that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said was poorly worded, unsigned and should not have been sent out.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that the United States and the world "cannot afford war."
"Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting U.S. 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," she said.
A spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said he is "closely monitoring the situation and is praying for the safety of our service members and other personnel."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also said tweeted that he was praying for the safety of U.S. troops and called for an end to escalation "before it leads to another endless war in the Middle East."
"In the meantime, the administration needs to bring any discussion of war with Iran to the American people and their representatives in Congres, as the Constitution requires," he said.