Iran attacks bases housing US troops

By Meg Wagner, Ivana Kottasová, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 2:31 AM ET, Thu January 9, 2020
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5:25 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Top US general says Iran intended to kill US troops

From CNN's  Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr

Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images
Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

The top US general made clear tonight that Iran meant to kill US troops in the ballistic missile attack on US forces in Iraq. 

“I believe based on what I saw and what I know that they were intended to cause structural damage destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That’s my own personal assessment," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters today.

Milley is delivering a differing message that what some administration officials have floated to CNN, which is that Iran could have directed their missiles to hit areas that are populated by Americans, but intentionally did not.

Administration officials suggested Iran may have chosen to send a message rather than take significant enough action to provoke a substantial US military response, a possible signal the administration was looking for rationale to calm the tensions.

“Why were there no casualties? In my estimation from what I know now, I think it has more to do with the defensive techniques that our forces used as opposed to intent," Milley added.

Casualties were avoided due to “early warning," various tactics and “defensive procedures” put in place," Milley said.

“We took sufficient defensive measures that there were no casualties to US personnel, coalition personnel, contractors or Iraqis,” he added. 

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the intent “remains to be determined."

5:04 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

GOP senator on Iran briefing: "A third grader could’ve figured this out. You don’t need the CIA."

From CNN's Phil Mattingly 

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham was critical of Democratic questions during the classified briefing today on the airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. Graham said that while no specific targets were mentioned by the briefers, the intelligence and decision making were clear enough for him.

“I would only imagine what people would say if we didn’t hit him given what we knew," Graham said.

Asked about concerns from Democrats on the lack of specifics about the imminent attacks, Graham said he "couldn’t disagree more."

“They don’t want specifics. I was really disappointed in their behavior in there because it was clear to me that this guy was up to no good in the moment," Graham said. "They keep asking questions about imminent. The guy is a designated terrorist. He’s been killing Americans for decades. He’s on the ground in Iraq, our embassy is being attacked, we’ve got real time intelligence of forthcoming attacks without specific places. He’s supposed to be going back to Tehran to talk about it. That’s the dilemma. Do you hit him or don’t hit him? It made sense to me given the intel that we had to hit him."

Graham added: “I find this whole idea that somehow the national security team did not have a good basis to hit this guy ridiculous. ... I think people have lost their minds about who we’re dealing with. A third grader could’ve figured this out. You don’t need the CIA. You’ve got an embassy being ransacked. You’ve got a contractor killed.”

6:21 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Republican senator says Iran briefing was worst he's had "in my nine years" in the Senate

From CNN's Manu Raju

Republican Sen. Mike Lee, speaking to reporters today, called today’s briefing the “worst briefing I’ve had on a military issue in my nine years” in the Senate.

‪The Utah lawmaker called the way this played out as “un-American” and “completely unacceptable” given that the administration suggested that Congress shouldn’t have a role in debating Iran military action. He said the administration would not commit to new Authorization for Use of Military Force or a cite a reason for coming to Congress before taking military action.

Asked if President Trump should have authorized the attack against Qasem Soleimani, Lee said he’s “agnostic” on that because the briefers didn’t give specific details ‬on the attacks planned by Soleimani.

Watch moment here:

4:39 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Senate briefing on airstrike got heated following questions from Democrats

From CNN's Phil Mattingly, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The classified Senate briefing on the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani became tense and heated amid repeated questions from Democratic senators about the intelligence regarding how imminent a future attack would be, according to four senators who were in the room.

Administration representatives ended up leaving before all questions were asked and departed after the allotted time of 90 minutes, two senators said.

Democrats pressed for specifics of the targets and timeline, and while senators said the timeline was described as within “days,” the information provided in today’s briefing did not explicitly back that up, according to Democrats.

At one point, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar pressed on the imminence of the attack, and several senators said they came away with the sense her specific question remained unanswered. Administration officials were pressed about whether the attacks would be carried out especially since Iran's supreme leader apparently had not signed off on what Soleimani was plotting, sources said.

Republicans expressed frustration over the Democratic posture during the briefing, with GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham saying they were “out of their minds” for how they approached the strikes.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, spoke to reporters following the briefing. Here's what he said about it:

"There were so many important questions that they did not answer. We did not see a plan, a satisfying plan for the future. We had 97 senators there, 15 got to ask questions. As the questions began to get tough, they walked out. I've asked for a commitment that they all come back within a week. We have not yet gotten that commitment."
4:28 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Two rockets land in Baghdad's Green Zone

From CNN’s Kareem Khadder in Baghdad

Two Katyusha rockets landed inside Baghdad's Green Zone, the Iraqi joint military command told CNN just after midnight Thursday local time.

There are "no reports of causalities," the military command said.

The CNN team in Baghdad heard sirens from inside the Green Zone and heard two explosions.


3:54 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns attacks on country

From CNN's Kareem Khadder in Baghdad

The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Iran's attacks on its territories in a statement today, and said it considered it a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs went on to call on "all concerned parties for self restraint, and to work towards de-escalating the tensions in the region."

The statement urged all parties involved not to turn Iraq into a "battleground for war for settling scores and to work towards solving the problems that the region faces," and said that the country's internal security is their highest priority.

They added that they will "not allow the country to become a ground for conflicts or a corridor to launch attacks on its neighboring countries." 

3:54 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Pelosi says War Powers resolution will come to House floor tomorrow

From CNN's Clare Foran

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

In a new statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House Iran war powers resolution will come to the House floor tomorrow. 

“Today, to honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran. This resolution, which will be led by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, will go to the Rules Committee this evening and will be brought to the Floor tomorrow," Pelosi said.

Pelosi added: “The House may also soon consider additional legislation on the Floor to keep America safe. This legislation includes Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s resolution to repeal the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and Congressman Ro Khanna’s legislation to prohibit funding for military action against Iran not authorized by Congress."

Earlier today: President Trump decided to hit Iran with new sanctions in the wake of its attack on two Iraqi military bases housing US troops.

It is unclear what new sanctions will be unveiled and, after years of punishing blockades being built up, what new measures can actually apply pressure on Iran. After the Saudi oilfield attacks, similar sanctions were pledged and experts even then were unclear what impact was left for the US to have on the already beleaguered economy.

3:48 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

What it looked like in the Situation Room last night

White House photo
White House photo

The White House released a photo of President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other officials in the Situation Room last night after the missile attacks.

Earlier today, the White House named the officials who were in the room:

  • Vice President Mike Pence
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley
  • Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney
  • National security adviser Robert O’Brien
  • Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire
  • Press secretary Stephanie Grisham

CIA Director Gina Haspel attended the meeting remotely.

3:37 p.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Iran communicated in "multiple messages" to US that attacks were the extent of their response 

From CNN's Pamela Brown

As US officials were busy assessing Iran’s missile attacks in Iraq late Tuesday, messages began arriving from Iran saying one thing: We’re done.

There were "multiple messages and they were all the same,” a person familiar with the matter said. Iran wanted to convey their retaliatory action had ended — and was waiting to see how the US would respond.

Iran initiated contact through at least three backchannels starting late Tuesday, including through Switzerland and other countries.

The back-and-forth communication came as American officials were still determining the extent of the Iranian attacks and were formulating plans for a response.

In response, the US sought to communicate to Iran that its proxies in the region were of equal concern as the activities of the Iranian state, the person familiar said.

The National Security Council didn't respond to a request for comment.