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Iran has launched “more than a dozen” ballistic missiles against two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. forces, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Iran said the attack was in retaliation to the airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, one of the most powerful figures in the Islamic Republic.

This aerial photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Assad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. The Pentagon said that Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases that hold US troops in response to the US airstrike that killed a top Iranian general last week.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the missiles were launched from Iran and targeted the Al-Assad and Irbil military bases. U.S. officials are still conducting initial damage assessments, the statement said. It’s unclear if there are any casualties. 

Trump says he likes “to obey the law”

When asked whether he was still considering targeting Iranian cultural sites at a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday, President Trump said he liked to “obey the law.”  

“They’re allowed to kill our people, they’re allowed to main our people, they’re allowed to blow up everything that we have, and there’s nothing that stops them. And we are, according to various laws, supposed to be very careful with their cultural heritage. And you know what? If that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law,” Mr. Trump said. 

“But think of it — they kill our people, they blow up our people, and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions. But I’m ok with it. It’s ok with me,” he added. “I will say this: If Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly.”  

Mr. Trump’s comments come after he appeared to threaten Iran’s cultural sites in a tweet on Saturday. The director general of the United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO, said Monday that both Tehran and Washington had signed a 1972 convention obliging states not to undertake “any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly the cultural and natural heritage” of other states.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had said earlier in the day that “I think we should expect that they [Iran] will retaliate in some way, shape or form” in the near term.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard claims responsibility

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a part of Iran’s military in which Soleimani was a leading figure, claimed responsibility for the attack, and top-level Iranian officials are already boasting about the strikes. For days, Iranian leaders signaled that they would strike US military targets in response to Soleimani’s killing. It’s possible this is that attack.

The White House has already put out a statement about the attack saying that Trump “is monitoring the situation.”

Limited capabilities

It’s important to note that Iran doesn’t have missiles that can reach the US mainland from Iran, and it doesn’t even have a nuclear weapon. It’s why Iran uses proxies and weapons at its disposal mainly to strike US targets and American allies in the Middle East.

Before the missile attacks, there were also reports of more than 30 rockets falling in and around Al Assad, but it’s unclear if this refers to the Iranian missiles. There were reportedly attacks in total.

Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have been firing rockets at bases housing U.S. forces on a semi-regular basis for years now. An attack involving 30 or more rockets would be in line with an earlier attack on K-1 base in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk in December 2019. That attack killed a U.S. military contractor and reportedly led to the U.S. government’s decision to kill Soleimani.

Iranian State TV said the operation’s name was “Martyr Soleimani.” It said the Guard’s aerospace division, which controls Iran’s missile program, launched the attack.

Vice President Mike Pence has briefed top Democrats in Congress on the missile strikes. 

Aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both confirmed the lawmakers spoke with the vice president by telephone Tuesday.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, says the New York Democrat is closely monitoring the situation and is praying for the safety of service members and other personnel.

Earlier, Iranian state TV said a stampede at the funeral for the top general slain in a U.S. airstrike has killed 56 people and injured 213 others.

What we don’t know so far
  • -The exact reason for this attack
  • – If anyone has been injured or killed
  • – What the US response will be to the attack

CBS / Vox

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