Iran Attacks Two U.S. Air Bases in Iraq - How Should the U.S. Respond?
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by Axios | 1.7.20
Iran has fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases where U.S. troops are stationed. There are unconfirmed reports of Iraqi casualties but no reports of Americans killed or injured.
Why it matters: It's the first direct retaliation against the U.S. for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. The scale of the harm inflicted, and President Trump's response, could determine whether the U.S. and Iran are plunged into war.
What they're saying:
- Pentagon statement: "At approximately 5:30 p.m. (EST) on January 7, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq. 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."
- The Pentagon added that it had taken "all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners" in recent days and placed the bases on high alert.
- Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps: "The brave soldiers of IRGC's aerospace unit have launched a successful attack with tens of ballistic missiles on Al Assad military base in the name of martyr Gen. Qasem Soleimani. ... We warn all allied countries of the U.S. that if attacks are launched from bases in their countries on Iran, they will be a target of military retaliation."
- A photo released by the IRGC appeared to show Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, personally overseeing the attacks. Khamenei said in the wake of Soleimani's killing that Iran should retaliate directly and not through its proxies.
Context: Attacking the U.S. directly is an extremely dangerous move, particularly after Trump drew a bright red line around any attacks that harm Americans or U.S. interests.
- Iran has said it is prepared to widen its targets if the U.S. retaliates, but will not conduct further strikes if the U.S. does not respond.
Our thought bubble: If there are not any U.S. casualties, this could provide Trump an off-ramp to declare victory, while the Iranians would claim to have defended their honor. But if there are U.S. casualties, the situation could escalate quickly.
- Michael Singh, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tells Axios: "The debate now will be, do you retaliate against the forces and the sites that launched those missiles?"
Behind the scenes: Speaker Nancy Pelosi was meeting with members this evening when she was handed a note with news of the attack, Rep. Debbie Dingell told reporters.
- Pelosi told the room to pray.
The latest: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an emergency restriction for airspace around the Persian Gulf due to the "potential for miscalculation or mis-identification," per AP.
Flashback: Trump visited Al Asad airbase in December 2018 and said that the U.S. would keep a presence in Iraq in part to "watch over Iran."
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