Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Wednesday that it had carried out missile strikes on bases housing US troops in Iraq in retaliation to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi top commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Iran also threatened “more crushing responses” if Washington carried out further strikes.
It is reported that nine rockets hit the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in the country’s west, the largest of the Iraqi military compounds where foreign troops are based.
The attack came in three waves just after midnight, sources quoted by AFP said.
Iran swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack, with state TV saying it had launched “tens of missiles” on the base and promised “more crushing responses” if the US carried out further strikes.
Following the strikes, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter to say that “Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defence” targeting a base from which a “cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials” was launched.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he added.
The attack comes after the IRGC had called for a complete withdrawal of US troops from Iran, asserting that it would not differentiate between the Washington and Israel while retaliating against Soleimani’s killing.
“We warn US allies providing bases for the (American) terrorist army that any country serving as the origin of bellicose and aggressive attacks in any form against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be targeted,” the IRGC said in a statement on Wednesday.
It urged the US to recall all their soldiers back home to prevent more damage.
The Pentagon in a statement confirmed the missile attack, saying “Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq”.
It further said that it would take all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners, and allies in the region.
The White House said earlier that it was monitoring the attacks, adding that President Donald Trump was also following the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.
“We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq,” Efe news quoted White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham as saying on Tuesday night.
“The President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.”
The attacks came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to “respond” to a US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had declared a three-day mourning for the deceased leader while vowing “severe revenge” on the US.
Soleimani was seen as the “godfather” of Tehran’s proxy network across the region and Muhandis, one of his top advisors, was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network.
Many factions within the Hashed, which has been incorporated into the Iraqi state, have ties to Tehran.
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday the United States wants to de-escalate tensions with Iran, but the country is ready to finish any war that could be started.
“We are not looking to start a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one,” he said. “What we’d like to see is the situation de-escalated.”
US installations across Iraq had faced some 15 rocket attacks in recent months but none had been claimed.
As a result, the US-led coalition and NATO announced they were temporarily suspending their operations in Iraq.