Iran struck back at the United States for killing its most powerful military commander, firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases that house American troops in what the Iranian supreme leader said was a “slap” against the U.S. military presence in the region.
The dramatic blast of more than a dozen missiles caused no casualties, however, and U.S. President Donald Trump said hours later that Iran “appears to be standing down.
It was a signal that both sides were stepping away from an immediate spiral of more direct exchanges that could throw the Middle East into great turmoil.
Speaking at the White House, Trump said the U.S. would impose new “punishing economic sanctions” on Iran to force it to stop its nuclear program and what he called its “hostilities” in the region. But he also said Washington was open to a deal with Tehran.
Iran, in turn, appeared to have calibrated its attack to avoid stoking further U.S. retaliation, giving some early warning to its Iraqi allies to avoid casualties.
“Last night they received a slap,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said of the Americans in a speech after the missile strikes.
He made clear that Iran’s actions were in response to the U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose death last week in a drone strike in Baghdad prompted angry calls for vengeance and drew massive crowds of Iranians to the streets in mourning. Khamenei himself wept at the funeral in a sign of his bond with the commander.
“These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”
Iran’s foreign minister tweeted that Tehran had taken and “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” adding that Tehran did “not seek escalation” but would defend itself against further aggression.
Iran’s attacks “appeared designed for maximum domestic effect with minimum escalatory risk,” said Henry Rome, analyst with Eurasia Group.
“For a president who wants to avoid a war in the Middle East during an election year, the Iranians have provided an off-ramp he will likely take,” Rome said.
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Iran struck back at the United States for killing its most powerful military commander, firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases that house American troops in what the Iranian supreme leader said was a “slap.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commented about Tehran’s missile attacks on American targets in Iraq and said the U.S. should now pull its forces out of the region.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has hinted at further attacks hours after retaliatory missile attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq on Wednesday, following the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in an American drone strike.