Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. killing of an Iranian general, raising the stakes in its conflict with Washington amid concern of a wider war in the Middle East.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a gathering of Iranians chanting “Death to America,” said the attacks were a “slap on the face” of the United States and U.S. troops should leave the region.
Tehran’s foreign minister said Iran took “proportionate measures” in self-defence and did not seek to escalate the confrontation.
The next move appeared to lie with Washington.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who ordered the drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday, gave an initial response on Twitter: “All is well!”
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! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.
Casualties and damage from the missile attacks were being assessed and Trump said he would make a statement on Wednesday.
Iranian state television said Iran had fired 15 ballistic missiles from its territory at U.S. targets in its neighbour Iraq. The bases targeted were al-Asad air base and another facility in Erbil, the Pentagon said.
One source said early indications were of no U.S. casualties, while other U.S. officials declined to comment.
WATCH: Raw video of missiles fired
Iranian television said 80 “American terrorists” had been killed and U.S. helicopters and military equipment damaged. It provided no evidence of how it obtained that information, which directly contradicted reports from the U.S, Iraq and Canadian officials.
Canada’s chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance tweeted late Tuesday that all Canadian personnel are safe.
Vance met with Defence Minister Harijit Sajjan earlier Tuesday and both were briefed by commanders on the ground in Iraq and in Ottawa..
Germany, Denmark, Norway and Poland said none of their troops in Iraq were hurt. The United Kingdom, which also has personnel in Iraq, condemned the Iranian action. Iraq said its forces did not suffer casualties.
More than 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq along with the other foreign forces in a coalition that has trained and backed Iraqi forces against the threat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.
“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,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
In Tehran, Khamenei said in a televised speech that “military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region.”
“This region will not accept the presence of America,” he said, renewing Tehran’s long-standing demand for Washington to withdraw its forces.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the strikes “concluded” Tehran’s response to the killing of Soleimani, who had been responsible for building up Iran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East and who was buried in his hometown Kerman on Monday after days of national mourning.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he wrote on Twitter.
Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.<br><br>We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.
Iranian television reported an official in the supreme leader’s office as saying the missile attacks were the “weakest” of several retaliation scenarios. It quoted another source saying Iran had lined up 100 other potential targets.
‘Revenge was taken’
U.S. officials said Soleimani was killed because of intelligence indicating forces under his command planned attacks on U.S. targets in the region. They have not provided evidence.
Before Soleimani was buried his body was taken on a tour of cities in Iraq and Iran, drawing huge crowds. A stampede at his funeral on Tuesday killed at least 56 people.
An hour after the Iranian missile attack, state television showed footage of the burial, where hundreds of people started chanting “God is greatest” when the strikes were announced over loudspeakers.
“His revenge was taken and now he can rest in peace,” Iranian television said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi received a verbal message from Iran in which it told him its response to the killing of Soleimani was either imminent or under way, his spokesman said in a statement.
“Shortly after midnight on Wednesday we received a verbal message from the Islamic Republic of Iran that the Iranian response to the assassination of the martyr Qassem Soleimani had started or was about to start.”
Tehran told Abdul Mahdi it would only target locations where U.S. forces were present but did not specify the locations, his spokesman said.
Abdul Mahdi simultaneously received a call from the U.S. while missiles were falling on the American wing of the Ain al-Assad air base and the Harir air base in Erbil, the spokesman said.
Friction between Iran and the U.S. rose after Trump withdrew in 2018 from a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, approved by his predecessor Barack Obama, and reimposed sanctions on Tehran slashing its vital oil exports.
Khamenei, in his speech on Wednesday, ruled out any resumption of talks with Washington on the 2015 deal.
Trump’s U.S. political rivals have challenged his decision to order Soleimani’s killing and questioned its timing in a U.S. election year.