President Donald Trump faces one of the greatest tests of his presidency after Iran launched ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. It was Iran’s most brazen direct assault on America since the 1979 seizing of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The strikes pushed Tehran and Washington perilously close to war, and put the world’s attention on Trump as he weighs whether to respond with more military force. The president huddled with his national security advisers on Tuesday night, but offered no immediate indication of whether he would retaliate. He said in a tweet that “All is well!” and announced plans to address the nation on Wednesday morning.
The Iranian strikes came days after Trump authorized the targeted killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Iran had pledged to retaliate, though its actions did not appear to result in any American casualties, according to a U.S. official. The missiles targeted two bases — one in the northern Iraqi city in Irbil and the other at Ain al-Asad in western Iraq.
Iranian state television said Iran had fired 15 missiles at U.S. targets. The U.S. military said at least two Iraqi facilities hosting U.S.-led coalition personnel were targeted at about 1:30 a.m. Iraq time (2230 GMT on Tuesday). Iraq said 22 missiles were fired.
Iranian officials said Tehran did not want a war and its strikes “concluded” its response to Friday’s killing of Qassem Soleimani, a powerful general whose burial after days of mourning was completed around the time of the missile launches. Iranian television showed mourners celebrating the attack.
U.S. President Donald Trump said an assessment of casualties and damage from the strikes was under way and that he would make a statement on Wednesday morning.
“All is well!,” Trump said Twitter. He visited one of the targeted sites in Iraq, Ain al-Asad air base, in December 2018, said on Twitter.
One source said early indications were of no U.S. casualties, while other U.S. officials declined to comment.
Iranian state television said 80 “American terrorists” had been killed and U.S. helicopters and military equipment damaged. It did not provide evidence of how it obtained that information.
Germany, Denmark, Norway and Poland said none of their troops in Iraq were hurt. Britain, which also has personnel in Iraq, condemned the Iranian action. Iraq said its forces did not suffer casualties.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the bases targeted were al-Asad air base and another facility in Erbil, Iraq.
“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,” Hoffman said.
More than 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq along with other foreign forces in coalition that has trained and backed Iraqi forces against the threat of Islamic State militants.
Iran, which has long said U.S. forces should leave the Middle East, told Washington after the attacks to withdraw its troops to prevent more deaths and warned U.S. allies including Israel not to allow attacks from their territories.
Soleimani, a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s campaign to drive U.S. forces out of Iraq, was responsible for building up Iran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East.
Iranian television reported an official in the supreme leader’s office as saying the missile attacks were the “weakest” of several retaliation scenarios. It quoted another source saying Iran had lined up 100 other potential targets.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was expected to speak later on Wednesday, state television reported.
Hours before the Iranian strikes, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should anticipate a response from Iran for the killing of Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, a unit of the Revolutionary Guards.
“I think we should expect that they will retaliate in some way, shape or form,” he told a briefing at the Pentagon.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran “took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter”.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he wrote in a post on Twitter.