Iran targeted at least two airbases housing US troops in Iraq with over a dozen ballistic missiles on Wednesday, reported BBC. It is still unclear if there have been any casualties at the two sites in Irbil and Al-Asad.
However, Trump said, “all is well”, and that he would make a statement later. He tweeted that assessment of casualties and damages was underway. Earlier, White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham had said that the president “is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team”.
Military jets were seen flying over Baghdad on Wednesday morning, hours after Tehran launched the missile attack, reported AFP. However, the planes could not be identified. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian aircraft carrying over 170 passengers crashed near Tehran shortly after take-off on Wednesday morning. An investigation team was at the site of the crash, the government said.
The attack is in retaliation for the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. On January 3, an airstrike by the US at Baghdad’s airport killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.
“We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted,” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard told state-run IRNA news agency. “The fierce revenge by the Revolutionary Guards has begun.”
It also warned that a counter attack by the US would be met with an even “more crushing response”, reported AFP. On Tuesday, Iran had designated all United States forces terrorists for the assassination of Soleimani.
US President Donald Trump owned up to the assassination, alleging that Soleimani had contributed to “terror plots as far away as New Delhi and London”. He promised “major retaliation” if Iran tries to avenge Soleimani’s killing, and threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites.
The attacks took place hours after the burial of Soleimani. At least 50 people were killed and hundreds injured in a stampede during the funeral procession in Soleimani’s hometown Kerman.
US tells airlines not to use airspace over Iraq, nearby regions
The US Federal Aviation Administration banned US carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia, reported Reuters. The ban is “due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations,” said the aviation administration.
Singapore Airlines Ltd said that all of its flights would be diverted from Iranian airspace. Korean Air Lines Co Ltd said it had been avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace before the attack on US troops.
The escalating tensions between the US and Iran affected international stocks badly. Tokyo stocks nosedived with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index falling nearly 2.5%. Hong Kong’s stock market benchmark was plunged nearly 1%. Shanghai, Sydney and Southeast Asian markets also retreated. “It’s not going to be pretty today,” said AxiTrader’s Stephen Innes, according to News18.
The Indian markets recovered marginally after opening 400 points down. At 10.30 am, Sensex was down about 117 points to 40,751. The broader Nifty was hovering around 12,000.
Oil prices, on the other hand, shot up to $71.75 a barrel. This in turn devalued the Indian rupee. The home currency was trading at 72.03 against the US dollar.
Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren called on Trump to de-escalate tensions with Iran, reported Reuters. “The American people do not want a war with Iran,” she said.
Iraq’s outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on Tuesday said the US had no other option but to pull its troops out of the country. He added that Iraq wants the US troops to withdraw to avoid further escalation.
This came even as US Defense Secretary Mark Esper dismissed reports that Washington had planned to pull out its military from Iraq. A letter allegedly talking about the preparations for this had led to speculation.
On Sunday, Trump had threatened Iran’s neighbour, Iraq, with “never seen before” sanctions, hours after the Iraqi parliament voted to expel the US troops following the assassinations. “If they do ask us to leave – if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis – we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before,” Trump had said. “It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”
The Iraq Parliament’s move, however, was largely symbolic as there is no deadline for the withdrawal. Besides, the matter is still pending Mahdi’s approval.