(TMU) — In an operation called Martyr Soleimani, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) targeted at least two United States airbases in Iraq Tuesday night with ballistic missiles in retaliation to the assassination of Iran’s second most powerful official, General Qasem Soleimani.
The primary target appears to have been the Ayn al-Asad airbase.
It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran & targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military & coalition personnel at Al-Assad & Irbil.
We are working on initial battle damage assessments.
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) January 8, 2020
Video released to Iranian media purportedly showing the strikes appeared on social media shortly after the missiles were launched.
— Barzan Sadiq (@BarzanSadiq) January 7, 2020
While the U.S. has not provided an official damage assessment, preliminary reports suggest there are no American casualties. The Iraqis, the Canadians, and the Norwegians also say they have suffered no casualties.
However, Iranian state media is claiming to have killed 80 U.S. troops in the missile strikes.
Iran state media claiming at least 80 US casualties in missile strikes. Doesn't matter that it's almost certainly not true – gives Iranian authorities a chance to beat their chest and claim victory, alleviating need for further strikes https://t.co/dH4Qk8xbPa
— michael safi (@safimichael) January 8, 2020
A non-existent or low casualty count on the part of the U.S. military may indicate that the retaliatory attacks were carefully calculated by Iran to avoid deaths, offering the Trump administration the opportunity to de-escalate tensions rather than retaliate.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, tweeted Tuesday night that Iran was acting in self defense as a result of Soleimani’s death, under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, rather than throwing the first punch in a new hot war. Article 51 reads:
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
In the tweet, Zarif clarified that Iran does “not seek escalation or war.”
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.
We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2020
In the midst of the attack, the Pentagon released the following statement:
Statement from Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman
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.
In recent days and in response to Iranian threats and actions, the Department of Defense has taken all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners. These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region.
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.
Due to the dynamic nature of the situation, we will continue to provide updates as they become available.
According to al Arabiya, the IRGC is uging Washington to recall its troops from Iraq “in order to avoid further losses and not to allow the lives of their soldiers to be further threatened by the ever-growing hatred” of the U.S.
The statement also warned that “U.S. allies providing base” for the U.S. military or “serving as the origin” of attacks against Iran “will be targeted.” It is no secret that U.S. allies in the region are both Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have their own tumultuous relationships with Iran.
Iranian state TV quoted an unnamed commander as saying:
“The missile attacks today were just the first step, [Trump] should think about withdrawing troops from the region and not to leave them within our reach.”
In a candid moment, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard — the only 2020 presidential candidate who has deployed to Iraq — says friends and fellow veterans are texting her, “What the f*** is going on?” pic.twitter.com/zOXxLdrg4S
— Nicole Sganga (@NicoleSganga) January 8, 2020
All of this comes only days after the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel all U.S. troops from the country.
On Sunday, Iran said it would no longer fully abide by the limits of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—also known as the Iran nuclear deal—and will instead “go on solely according to the country’s technical needs.”
Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, took to Twitter to advise both sides “slow down,” reassess, and communicate.
There will be ample time down the road to diagnose how we got to where we are and to allocate responsibility. The priority now ought to be to slow down decision-making on both sides and create some time & space for reassessment, signaling, and direct/indirect communication.
— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) January 8, 2020
It appears this is precisely what both sides are doing—at least for the time being. It was widely reported that U.S. President Donald Trump would address the nation following the attacks in Iraq, however Stephanie Grisham, White House Press Secretary, revealed this would not be the case.
Instead, after the attacks concluded, Trump took to Twitter to uncharacteristically post only one tweet. In it he reassured the American people that “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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2020
Iran appears to have drawn a line in the sand, with multiple officials repeating that the country was merely defending itself, in accordance with the UN Charter, against the U.S. assassination of Soleimani.
Iran was going to retaliate sooner or later, one way or the other. There was no way they would let this go.
But Iran is now trying to make it clear that this is a retaliation for one action, not an escalation into a full-on war.
There is no appetite for war in #Iran.
— Negar Mortazavi (@NegarMortazavi) January 8, 2020
If the United States decides to engage further, Iran will respond in kind.
The IRGC said in their statement:
“We warn the Great Satan, the bloodthirsty and arrogant regime of the U.S., that any new wicked act or more moves and aggressions (against Iran) will bring about more painful and crushing responses.”
“In conformity with international law and in exercising its inherent right to self-defense, Iran will take all necessary and proportionate measures against any threat or use of force,” Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi said in his letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres underlining Iran’s right to self-defense.
The following is the full text of Ravanchi’s letter:
“Pursuant to my letter dated 3 January 2020 regarding the terrorist attack by the armed forces of the United States of America against Martyr Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his companions on January 3, 2020 at the Baghdad International Airport, I am writing to draw your kind attention to yet another provocative statement by the United States threatening to use further force against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
On January 3, 2020 and almost immediately after the terrorist attack, the President of the United States threatened Iran “in particular”, stating, “We have all of those targets already fully identified, and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary”.
On January 4, 2020, the President of the United States once again threatened to “hit very fast and very hard” “52 Iranian sites”, including some very important to “the Iranian culture”.
After a few hours on the same day, he threatened Iran again by stating, “We will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before”.
On January 5, 2020, when faced with the criticism that targeting Iran’s cultural sites would be considered a war crime under international law, he asserted anew that, “We’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way”.
On the same day, he yet again brazenly threatened that “the United States will quickly [and] fully strike” Iran “in a disproportionate manner”.
Overall, only in three days, the President of the United States, through extremely provocative and harsh statements, has threatened five times to use force against a founding member of the United Nations.
Publicly repeating such provocative statements and unlawful threats are without a doubt a clear call for lawlessness, chaos, and disorder at the international level, particularly with respect to a highly important common good such as peace and security.
Such unbridled threats by the President of the United States indisputably constitute a gross violation of the peremptory norms of international law as well as the very fundamental principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, particularly its Article 2(4) that clearly prohibits the threat or use of force.
Given the confrontational nature of these inflammatory statements and threats, as well as the broad and adverse ramifications of the military adventurism of the United States on regional and international peace and security, it is crystal clear that this country bears the full responsibility for all consequences.
It is also evident that the threat to target Iranian cultural sites is certainly a flagrant violation of the basic norms and principles of international law, and any attack against such sites would be a war crime. Additionally, it should be born in mind that “damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind”.
Recalling that the current insecurity and instability in the broader Persian Gulf region is the direct result of the unlawful invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003 as well as its massive military presence and its “divide and rule” policy in the region, it is also worth noting that all the above said threats, including to dispatch more troops and “brand new beautiful equipment” to this already volatile region, would indeed further complicate the current tense situation.
I must also stress that the aforementioned statements and actions are only the tip of a submerged iceberg of hostile policies and unlawful practices, as well as the threats and plots of the United States against Iran over the past 40 years.
While the Islamic Republic of Iran does not seek war, it seriously warns against any further military adventurism against it. Iran is determined to continue to strongly protect its people, to vigorously defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to fully secure its national interests.
Accordingly, in conformity with international law and in exercising its inherent right to self-defense, Iran will take all necessary and proportionate measures against any threat or use of force.
This is in accordance with its inherent right under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, and Iran will not hesitate to exercise it when required.
The irresponsible policies and unlawful practices of the United States continue to not only endanger the very foundations of international law and order but also pose a real threat to international peace and security.
The international community should not condone or tolerate this situation and must demand that the United States put an end to its continued unlawful and destabilizing measures in such a volatile region as the Middle East, particularly by withdrawing all its forces from the region.
Likewise, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) must condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the unlawful threats and unfettered policies of the United States as well as hold it accountable for all of its wrongful acts and unlawful practices while compelling it to abide by the principles and rules of international law.
I should be grateful if you would have the present letter circulated as a document of the Security Council.”
On Wednesday, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, briefly referenced the attack, saying:
“We just gave them a slap in the face last night/ Retaliation, these military actions, do not compensate for the issue. What is important is the ending of American presence.”
Anti-war activists in the United States were quick to mobilize an emergency response in hopes of quelling any chance of escalation, while demanding U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq.
Stephen Miles, Executive Director of anti-war group Win Without War, said in a statement:
“We urge all parties—Iran and the United States—to immediately halt all military action and reject an unnecessary and costly war of choice. We condemn in the strongest possible terms military escalation by both the Iranian and U.S. militaries.”
Miles also said the “time for de-escalation is now.”
Emergency actions are planned for the following U.S. cities on Wednesday, January 8:
- Washington, D.C.
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- New York City
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Minneapolis/Saint Paul
- Salt Lake City
If you’re near DC, please come to the White House tomorrow. 3pm on to say #NoWarWithIran
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) January 8, 2020