Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday to address missile attacks that targeted two U.S. military bases in Iraq. Photo by Office of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei/EPA-EFE
Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed the missile attack on a pair of U.S.-held military bases in Iraq Wednesday, warning that the strikes were merely a "slap on the face" for the United States.
In remarks broadcast nationally, Khamenei said the launches that targeted American and coalition forces in Erbil and al-Asad were not sufficient to rid the region of corruption he said has been created by the U.S. presence.
The missile strikes were retaliation for a U.S. drone strike last Friday that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and one of his deputies. Soleimani was buried Wednesday in his hometown of Kerman.
"The lying Americans, who are not worthy of being valued, tried to portray this brave man as a terrorist but the Iranian nation punched them in the mouth," Khamenei said.
"The talk of revenge and such debates are a different issue. For now, a slap was delivered on their face last night.
"What is important about confrontation is that the military action as such is not sufficient. What is important is that the seditious American presence in the region must end."
U.S. officials said more than a dozen missiles were fired from inside Iran but no American troops were hurt. The al-Asad base, west of Baghdad, is the second-largest U.S. air base in Iraq.
The damage to the bases wasn't immediately clear Wednesday, but aerial photos taken by satellite imaging company Planet and posted by NPR show some damage at the al-Asad base.
The pictures depicted hangars and buildings hit hard, with at least five structures sustaining damage.
President Donald Trump, making his first remarks since the attacks Wednesday, said damage to the bases was "minimal" and there were no American casualties.
Iranian state media, however, reported at least 80 American troops were killed and 200 were injured in the strikes, citing an "informed source" in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"As many as 20 critical points of the base were hit by 15 missiles and a significant number of UAVs and helicopters were destroyed," the report said.
"Despite the fact that Americans had been on high alert, their air defense was unable to respond."
Khamenei said in his national address that Iran must stand up to American aggression.
"Some people say and even write in newspapers that we should act so that America does not get angry; this is absolutely wrong," he said.
"It is a very blatant mistake that some people think if they take a step back, the Americans will stop their hostility.
"This must end. This region does not accept the American presence. Governments emanating from their people do not accept this."