Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRCG) launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. military personnel. Crowds responded to a public announcement of the attack from IRGC Spokesman General Ramezan Sharif with chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to England.”
The IRGC is in charge of the Islamic Republic’s Ballistic Missile Program. According to official Iranian statements, the elite force fired 18 rockets at the specific Iraqi compounds believed to have been used by the United States to launch the precision drone attack on 3 January 2020 that assassinated IRGC Commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
In a televised speech, the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared the retaliatory strike as “a slap” in America’s face. “Military action like this is not sufficient,” he stressed, while further asserting Tehran’s ultimate goal, “what is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region.”
The Ayatollah Regime’s top diplomat echoed those sentiments in English-language comments to local press. “Well we’ve said very clearly that if the United States takes any further action, Iran will respond accordingly and we will respond in a very harsh way, but proportionally,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Despite open praise by Iranian leaders of Soleimani as the mastermind of many attacks against American and other Western forces, Zarif insisted that his nation “did not start this process of escalation,” arguing that “The United States waged an economic war against Iran.”
U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the Iranian attack with a Tweet, insisting that “all is well.” He ambiguously noted “an assessment of casualties & damages (is) taking place,” and “So far, so good” – while simultaneously reminding the Islamic Republic and the rest of the international community that the United States maintains the most powerful military of the world.
U.S. lawmakers were cautious over making any elaborate statements on Tehran’s strikes against the Iraqi military compounds. Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina commented that “it’s very troubling,” saying “We’ll have to determine how many (missiles) successfully hit their targets, whether or not our defenses were able to mitigate some of that” and “then respond appropriately.”
Democratic Senator of Delaware Chris Coons said his “immediate concern is for the safety and security of American troops, as well as those who are our partners in the region.” He expressed “hope and prayer is that there haven’t been American casualties,” before saying that “it’s clear that we have escalated the threat to America’s personnel and interests in the region by striking General Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC.” While stressing he did not mourn “the passing of this individual responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans over many years,” Coons said he was “questioning whether or not the Trump administration has a coherent strategy for what to do next.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also responded to the developments by reiterating Jerusalem’s unwavering support for the United States amid the escalating situation. “Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the death of countless innocent people,” who the Israeli leader accused of having “destabilized many countries,” sown “fear, misery and anguish” for past decades while “planning much worse” before his demise. Netanyahu insisted that “President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly, boldly and resolutely against this terrorist-in-chief,” who he said “was the architect and driver of Iran’s campaign of carnage and terror throughout the Middle East and throughout the world.”
After stressing the importance of proclaiming “Israel stands completely beside and behind the United States,” Prime Minister Netanyahu also highlighted Jerusalem’s resolve to protect itself from any foe seeking to harm the Jewish State. “In today’s Middle East, no day is like any other,” he said. “The regional upheaval continues. The struggle between extremists and moderates continues unabated. On one side is radical Islam led by Iran, which seeks to grasp large sections of the area by means of murderous terrorism, and to grasp, strangle and eliminate us, because they understand that the strongest force of Western culture is here, in the State of Israel. They understand this very well. On the other side is the pragmatic camp that is threatened by Islamic extremists. This camp well understands the campaign for existence, for life and for the future. The State of Israel is the anchor of stability in these stormy waters. The challenges that we are dealing with are not lessening – on the contrary. Nevertheless, we stand steadfast against those who seek our lives. We stand determined and strong. Whoever tries to attack us will receive a crushing blow in return.”
Earlier today, the former Director of Israel’s National Security Council said that he does not believe Washington would be able to refrain from retaliating for Tehran’s ballistic missile attack on the U.S. Armed Forces. During an interview with Army Radio, Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Jacob Nagel also commented that he does not “see reasonable probability” that Israel could be dragged into war between the sides, but stopped short of entirely ruling out such a scenario.
President of the European Union Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, is warning that “The current crisis deeply affects not only the region but all of us. And the use of weapons must stop now to give space to dialogue.” After saying “there cannot be enough” attempts to “rekindle talks,” she underscored that “the European Union in its own way has a lot to offer,” with “time-tested relations with many actors in the region and beyond to deescalate the situation.”
Newly-appointed EU Policy Chief Josep Borrell revealed that European forces are also based at the targeted Iraqi compounds, condemning the Iranian assault as “yet another example of escalation and increased confrontation.” He then emphasized that “It is in no one’s interest to turn up this cycle of violence even further.”