Al Asad Air Base in Iraq was hit by several missiles launched by Iran from Iranian territory on Wednesday, January 8, 2020. The attack on the base, which houses American and Iraqi forces, began at 1:20 a.m., the same time that Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. strike near Baghdad Airport on January 3. Iran had vowed “hard revenge.”
There are no reports of casualties among any members of the coalition forces. There had initially been reports of Iraqi casualties, but CNN reports it appears no one was injured or killed. “A US military official tells CNN the military did have early enough warning of the ballistic missile launches that they had enough time to sound alarms. People in harm’s way were able to get to bunkers/safety,” CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz tweeted.
Ali Arouzi, the NBC News Tehran Bureau Chief, said on Twitter, “Iran is saying that if there is no retaliation from America for these latest attacks then they will stop attacking. But if America attacks then their response will be crushing and wide spread.”
President Donald Trump has said that if Iran did carry out an act of revenge, the U.S. would respond.
Trump tweeted on January 5, “The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!”
He added in a second January 5 tweet, “These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”
Trump earlier said on January 4 on Twitter, “Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters.”
Trump added, “He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years. Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”
After the strikes in Iraq, Trump tweeted, “All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, tweeted after the missile strikes, “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
Here’s what you need to know about the missile attack on Al Asad Air Base:
1. Videos Showed the Missiles After Their Launch & the Moment of Impact at the Base
Iranian state TV released video purporting to show the missile attack. Many details about the missile attack on the Al Asad Air Base remain unclear. It is not yet known if there were any casualties. A video released by Iranian officials claims to show a photo of General Soleimani hanging in front of those who launched the missiles.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has claimed responsibility for the missile assault. The IRGC said in a statement, “We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted.”
Another video, shot on a cell phone by someone at the base, shows the moment missiles struck.
2. The Department of Defense Said ‘More Than a Dozen Ballistic Missiles’ Were Launched by Iran
The Department of Defense confirmed the missile attack.
“Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. “It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil. We are working on initial battle damage assessments.”
Hoffman added, “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. 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.”
3. An Iranian Official Trolled Trump by Tweeting Out a Clip-Art Image of the Iranian Flag, Mocking Trump’s Tweet of an American Flag After the Soleimani Strike
When the U.S. strike killed Soleimani, a powerful political and military leader in Iran who led the Quds Force, Trump simply tweeted clip-art of an American flag. After the missile launch, an Iranian official, Saeed Jalili, taunted Trump by tweeting out a clip-art of an Iranian flag.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, “We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq. The President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.”
4. Trump & Pence Both Visited the Al-Asad Base in Recent Years & Trump Said Iraq Would Have to Pay the U.S. Back for It if American Forces are Expelled From the Country
The Al Asad Air Base, also known as Al-Assad and Ayn al Asad, is located in western Iraq in the Anbar province. The base has also been used by British forces. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, it was the second-largest U.S. airbase in Iraq. President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited the base on December 26, 2018, and Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence made a visit there on November 23, 2019, ahead of Thanksgiving.
Trump specifically mentioned the Al Asad Air Base while talking about the Iraqi parliament vote to expel American forces from the country after Soleimanis death. Trump said “We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame. … We’ve spent a lot of money in Iraq. We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. … We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”
Trump added, “So with Iraq, I told you, Iraq, was the worst decision, going into the Middle East was the worst decision ever made in the history of our country. But we went in and we’re there and we’re pulling out, pulling out of a lot of different areas.”
5. Oil Prices Spiked by More Than 4 Percent After the Missile Attack
After the missile attack on Al Asad, oil prices spiked by more than 4 percent, according to MarketWatch.
“It’s not going to be pretty today,” Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader, said in a note, according to MarketWatch. “Global equities are being hit, and the need for defensive strategies is paramount. There is no denying the enormity of long-term geopolitical repercussions of the latest events as oil, bond, and gold defensive strategy flows are providing the lead-in for the local cash market opens.”
Ken Berman, of Gorilla Trades, told CNBC, “Most participants remained cautious … as it’s still unclear how the standoff between the U.S. and Iran could affect financial markets. Volatility remained relatively low today, but investors remained nervous.”
According to CNBC, “Dow Jones Industrial Average futures dropped 410 points and indicated a loss of 432 points at Wednesday’s open. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures pointed to losses of at least 1.5%.”
Just hours before the missile strike, Trump tweeted, “Had a very good meeting with (Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman) of Saudi Arabia. We discussed Trade, Military, Oil Prices, Security, and Stability in the Middle East!”