Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described the ballistic missile attacks on two Iraqi bases hosting US forces early on 7 January as a “slap” in retaliation for the US airstrike that killed Major General Qasem Soleimani.
“For now, a slap was delivered on their face last night,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.
While this suggested that more attacks could follow, he indicated that these would take the form of a multi-faceted campaign to force the US from the Middle East: essentially a continuation of Tehran’s existing policy. “What is important about confrontation is that military action as such is not sufficient. What is important is that the seditious American presence in the region must end,” Khamenei said.
His comments were mirrored by President Hassan Rouhani, who said, “Our final answer to his [Maj Gen Soleimani’s] assassination will be to kick all US forces out of the region.”
The US Department of Defense said in a statement that at approximately 1730 h EST on 7 January (0130 h on 8 January Iraqi time) Iran “launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq”. It identified the bases as Ain al-Asad Air Base in the western province of Al-Anbar and a second near the northern city of Arbil.
It did not say whether there had been any casualties, only that it was “working on initial battle damage assessments”. US President Donald Trump was more confident, tweeting, “Assessment of casualties and damages taking place now. So far, so good!”
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) did not immediately provide details of the ballistic missile attack it carried out, but one senior official told the Fars News Agency that at least 20 US soldiers had been killed and four wounded at Ain al-Assad.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to Jane’s unrivalled data and insight, learn more about our subscription options at janes.com/products