President Donald Trump says ‘all is well’ and ‘so far so good’ as the damage and casualties continue to be assessed after Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing American troops in a revenge attack for the U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.
‘All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far,’ Trump tweeted late Tuesday as he broke his silence on the missile attack.
Trump said he would be making an official statement on Wednesday morning regarding the attacks.
The Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq that Trump visited in December 2018 and the Erbil base in Iraqi Kurdistan were both struck by the missiles on Tuesday at about 5.30pm (EST).
The Pentagon says the missiles were ‘clearly launched from Iran’ to target U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq. A U.S. official said there were no immediate reports of American casualties, though buildings were still being searched. Iraqi officials say there were no casualties among their forces either.
A military official has revealed the U.S. had early warnings of the Iranian missile launches and were able to the sound the alarms at at least one of the two targeted bases. Those in harm’s way were able to scramble to safety and hide in bunkers during the attack, the official told USA Today. U.S. troops at the base had been practicing safety drills for some time.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which controls the country’s missile program, confirmed that they fired the rockets in retaliation for last week’s killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, according to state TV.
They reported the operation’s name was ‘Martyr Soleimani’ and it took place just hours after the slain general’s funeral.
Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif called the attacks ‘self-defense’ but said they did ‘not seek escalation’ but would defend itself against further aggression.
The rockets used in the attack, according to Iranian TV, were Fatteh-110 ballistic missiles, which have a range of 186 miles or 300km.
The Iranian air force has since deployed multiple fighter jets to patrol it airspace, according to reports – as Iran warned the U.S. and its allies in the region not to retaliate.
The Pentagon said it was still working to assess the damage.
‘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. These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces,’ a statement from the Pentagon read.
‘It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at al-Assad and Irbil. We are working on initial battle damage assessments.
As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region.’
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, reportedly said Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei was personally in the control center coordinating the attacks.
They also warned U.S. allies in the Middle East that they would face retaliation if America strikes back against any Iranian targets from their bases.
‘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,’ they said. It also threatened Israel.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were spotted arriving at the White House soon after news of the strikes broke.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday night that the missile strikes were an ‘act of war’ and said Trump had all the power he needed to act.
‘This is an act of war by any reasonable definition,’ Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. ‘The President has all the authority he needs under Article II to respond.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that the U.S., as well as the rest of the world, ‘cannot afford war’.
‘Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war,’ she tweeted.
After the strikes, Saeed Jalili – a former Iranian nuclear negotiator and foreign minister – posted a picture of the Islamic Republic’s flag on Twitter, appearing to mimic Trump who posted an American flag following the killing of Soleimani and others in the drone strike in Baghdad.
Ain al-Asad air base was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and later saw American troops stationed there amid the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. It houses about 1,500 U.S. and coalition forces.
About 70 Norwegian troops also were on the air base but no injuries were reported, Brynjar Stordal, a spokesperson for the Norwegian Armed Forces said.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday it would ban U.S. carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia after the missile attack on U.S.-led forces.
Earlier on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should anticipate retaliation from Iran over the killing in Iraq of Soleimani.
‘I think we should expect that they will retaliate in some way, shape or form,’ Esper told a news briefing at the Pentagon, adding that such retaliation could be through Iran-backed proxy groups outside of Iran or ‘by their own hand.’
‘We’re prepared for any contingency. And then we will respond appropriately to whatever they do.’
Trump had also earlier told reporters about the prospect of an Iranian attack: ‘We’re totally prepared.’
‘They’re going to be suffering the consequences and very strongly,’ he said from the Oval Office during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Meanwhile, early reports of an attack at the al-Taji military base, just outside Baghdad, was later reported as a drill.
Local reports initially suggested that five rockets had struck the base after ‘shelter in place’ sirens were heard ringing out around the compound.
Sirens were also heard blaring out inside the U.S. consulate in Erbil, which was one of the bases struck in the missile attack.