By Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin | ABC News |
At least nine rockets, believed to be fired by Iran, hit an Iraqi airbase on Wednesday where American and coalition forces are based, a US official has confirmed.
“This morning, courageous fighters of the IRGC’s Air Force launched a successful operation called Operation Martyr Soleimani, with the code ‘Oh Zahra’ by firing tens of ground-to-ground missiles at the base of the terrorist and invasive U.S. forces named Ain Al Asad,” the country’s state-run news outlet ISNA reported, referring to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the Trump administration officially designated as a terrorist organization in April.
A U.S. official confirms to ABC News that ballistic missiles have been fired from inside Iran at multiple U.S. military facilities inside Iraq on Wednesday morning, local time. The facilities include Erbil in northern Iraq and Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq, the official said.
A Defense Department statement said they are still working on initial 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,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
“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.”
A U.S. official confirmed that as of 7 p.m. Eastern time missiles were still inbound from Iran to multiple locations inside Iraq, specifically Erbil and Al Assad.
The White House said it was aware of the reports.
“We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “The President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.”
The attack comes days after the U.S. killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone attack in Iraq.
The recent developments were likely to spark fear of a U.S. war with Iran. Iranian leaders have vowed revenge for the American airstrike against Soleimani, who the U.S. has blamed for the recent death of an American military contractor.
Trump and his top aides defended the drone killing of Soleimani, insisting that he was planning an attack on U.S. service members and diplomats.
“He was planning a very big attack and a very bad attack, for us, and for other people,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday afternoon prior to the missile attack on U.S. sites in Iraq.
“He was a monster,” Trump later added of Soleimani.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard issued a statement praising the attack and vowed more actions if the U.S. retaliated.
“We warn the governments that have given their bases to the terrorist army of the United States — if their territory becomes the starting point of aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran, they will be targeted,” the statement said.
Trump visited al-Asad Airbase in December 2018, his first visit to U.S. troops in a combat zone since becoming president.
“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” Trump told the service members during the visit, according to the Associated Press. “We’re respected again as a nation.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday afternoon that the U.S. was ready to retaliate for any attack launched by Iran.
“To our partners and allies and to the Iran regime, I would like to say we are not looking to start a war with Iran. But we are prepared to finish one,” Esper said. ”
As I’ve told my many colleagues, as I spoke to them over the last few days, what we like to see is the situation be de-escalated and for Iran to sit down with us to begin a discussion about a better way ahead.”