Iran attacks bases housing US troops

By James Griffiths, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 8:20 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020
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7:23 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

The ball is in Trump's court now

From CNN's Christiane Amanpour

Again, we're slightly on a knife edge and we will have to wait what the US President Donald Trump says about this -- although his initial tweet implies that this is the kind of response that they expected. 

Whether the United States will now decide that enough is enough for this moment and whether there's some other diplomatic, political or any kind of engagement going forward. 

First and foremost we wait because the ball is again in the Trump administration's court. 

It's very important to note that Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister, posted a tweet that is very, very clear: he has said Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under article 51 of the UN Charter.

He went on, saying: "We do not seek escalation or war but will defend ourselves against any aggression." 

This is a very clear comment, and it matches what he said in interviews with CNN in the days immediately after the killing of Soleimani.

7:24 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

If you're just waking up, here's what's happening

Iran launched a ballistic missile attack at two Iraqi bases which house US troops in the early hours of Wednesday morning local time. 

Here is what you need to know now:

  • More than a dozen missiles struck the al-Asad airbase in Iraq, along with several places in Erbil, but no casualties have been reported.
  • Iraq gave the US advance warning about the strikes, according to security sources, after being informed about them by Iran.
  • Tehran said the strikes were retaliation for the American strike that killed a top Iranian general last week.
  • Iran did not "seek escalation or war," Iran's foreign minister said, describing the strikes as "proportionate" and adding that Iran's action has "concluded."
  • President Trump is due to address the nation soon. Responding to the strikes on Twitter last night, he said: "All is well!"

Read the full story here.

7:21 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Iran’s strikes may be a smart diplomatic move

Analysis by Nic Robertson in Riyadh

Iran’s choice of target is significant. If it wanted to kill lots of American soldiers in Iraq there were easier bases to strike.

I’ve been to al-Asad airbase – it’s vast and it’s remote. Strikes there could find plenty of dead ground away from troop bunkers and would have little risk of civilian collateral killings.

Iraqi military commanders had been warned by Iran to stay away from US bases and US officials confirm their troops, too, had adequate warning to shelter from the attack.

Iran is trying to have its cake and eat it. Create the impression of a fearsome strike for domestic consumption without actually risking escalation.

So far, it’s working -- soon after the ballistic missiles slammed into the base, President Trump tweeted “all is well,” “so far, so good.”

(File photo) Iranian lawmakers vote during a parliamentary session in Tehran.
(File photo) Iranian lawmakers vote during a parliamentary session in Tehran. Photo: ICANA NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images

There is one message for the international community and another for the Iranians who flocked to the streets for Qasem Soleimani’s funeral.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, called the strike “proportional,” while the theocracy’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told cheering crowds in Tehran it was a “crushing” blow.

Other Iranian officials speaking for international consumption say there is no need for further strikes unless the US escalates the situation. Meanwhile, some Iranian news outlets are ramping up propaganda, claiming the killing of many US troops when every reliable source says no US troops were killed.

A full US battle damage assessment has begun, and Trump is expected to speak later Wednesday, but every indication so far points toward a military off-ramp moment.

How diplomacy picks up is hard to say. In many ways the situation is back to where it was in the minutes before Soleimani’s killing.

The question will be -- and this was always the gamble in killing the architect and inspiration of Iran’s overseas aggression -- will the ayatollahs now decide they can’t get away with the attacks as they did, or do they believe their own domestic hype, and that it is for the US to back down on sanctions and pull out of the region.

Regardless of what they or the White House believe, the door to de-escalation has opened a crack -- diplomacy might just slip into the room.

7:37 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Iraq gave US advance warning about Iranian strikes, sources say

From CNN's Nic Robertson in Riyadh, Mohammed Tawfeeq in Baghdad and Barbara Starr in Washington

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said Iran sent Iraq an official verbal message that an attack “had begun or would begin shortly,” on unspecified US military locations -- but other informed sources are contradicting that timeline.

An Arab diplomatic source told CNN that Iraq gave advance warning to the United States on “which bases would be hit” after Iranian officials passed on the information.

A US defense official said Iraqis were told by Iran to stay away from certain bases.

CNN has reported that US intelligence had observed Iran moving military equipment including drones and ballistic missiles over the last several days.

Two bases housing US troops have been hit.
Two bases housing US troops have been hit. Map: CNN

6:43 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia calls for Iraq to follow Iran and retaliate to US killing of Soleimani

From CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq in Baghdad

Iran-backed Shiite militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq said it was time for Iraq to respond to the US strike that killed general Qasem Soleimani and the Deputy leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

The media office of Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the militia group, posted the following statement on Twitter on Wednesday:

The preliminary Iranian response to the assassination of the martyr leader Soleimani took place. Now is the time for the initial Iraqi response to the assassination of the martyr leader al-Muhandis [an Iraqi militia leader who was killed in the same strike].”

“The Iraqi response will not be less than the size of the Iranian response, and this is a promise,” Qais al-Khazali also said.

6:28 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Rouhani calls for US forces to be "kicked out of the region"

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the final answer to the killing of Iran's top general Qasem Soleimani was "to kick all US forces out of the region."

Rouhani tweeted on Wednesday, saying that if it wasn't for Soleimani's war on terror, "European capitals would be in great danger now."

5:55 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

BREAKING: Iraq received verbal warning from Iranians before missile attacks

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Baghdad 

Iraq received "an official verbal message" from Iran shortly after midnight and prior to the missile attacks, according to a statement from Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi.

The statement said:

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday 8/1/2020, we received an official verbal message from the Islamic Republic of Iran that the Iranian response to the assassination of the martyr Qassem Soleimani had begun or would begin shortly, and that the strike would be limited to the whereabouts of the US military in Iraq without giving the exact location.

Abdul Mahdi said that once Iraq received information from the Iranian side, they warned Iraqi military leaders "to take the necessary precautions."

The missiles hit Iraq between 1:45 am and 2:15 am local, according to an earlier statement released by Iraqi military.

Abdul Mahdi was making the necessary internal and external contacts in an attempt to contain the situation and not enter into an open-ended war, his office said, adding: "Iraq and the region will be among the first victims."

"Iraq refuses any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its lands, the government continues its efforts to prevent escalation. This serious crisis threatening the region and the world with a devastating war," the statement read.

5:45 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020

Netanyahu warns any attack would be met with "the most devastating blow"

From Ofri Eshel and Andrew Carey in Jerusalem

Benjamin Netanyahu issued an unequivocal warning to Iran not to attack Israel.

He said he spoke for many of Israel’s neighbors in reiterating his strong support for the US killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, a man the Israeli Prime Minister described as Iran’s “terrorist-in-chief.”

Addressing a conference in Jerusalem Wednesday morning, just hours after Iran launched a missile attack on military bases in Iraq housing US troops -- and amid renewed Iranian threats to hit Israeli cities -- the Israeli Prime Minister said, “Anyone who tries to attack us will suffer the most devastating blow.”

Netanyahu went on:

Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the death of countless people, he destabilized many countries for decades, and he was planning much worse. President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly boldly and resolutely against this terrorist in chief, who was the architect and driver of Iran’s campaign of carnage and terror throughout the Middle East and the world. What I am saying here today openly, and what I have said in recent days, many, many leaders in the Middle East think."

He added, “Israel stands completely besides the United States … America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel has no better friend than the United States of America.”

Netanyahu said Israel was standing "completely besides the United States."
Netanyahu said Israel was standing "completely besides the United States." Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images