Khamenei says ‘slap in the face delivered to US’
BAGHDAD: Iran said Wednesday it has launched missile attack on the U.S. military base of al-Asad in Iraq’s Anbar province following the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. “Tens of surface-to-surface missiles” were fired at the strategic airbase,” said Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in a statement carried by Iranian state TV. The IRGC attack comes after Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC, was killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad International Airport on Friday. In the statement, the IRGC called for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, saying that it would not differentiate between the U.S. and Israel in retaliating the assassination of the Iranian national “hero.” “We in no way consider the Zionist regime (of Israel) to be separated from the criminal U.S. regime in these crimes,” read the IRGC statement. “We warn U.S. allies providing bases for the (American) terrorist army … that any country serving as the origin of bellicose and aggressive attacks in any form against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be targeted,” it said. The IRGC warned the United States that “any new wicked act or more moves and aggressions (against Iran) will bring about more painful and crushing responses.” The IRGC further urged the American people to call for the return of U.S. forces from the region in order to prevent further losses and not to allow Washington put the lives of American troops at risk any more. The Pentagon has confirmed Iran’s launch of more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq. “At approximately 5:30 p.m. (EST) on January 7, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq,” the Pentagon said in a statement. These missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at al-Asad and Irbil, the statement added. The bases have been on high alert due to indications that Iran planned to attack the U.S. forces and interests in the region, it noted. The Pentagon also pointed out that it would take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region. Meanwhile, The Iraqi Iranian-backed Shiite militia leader Qais al-Khazali said Wednesday that the Iranian initial response to the killing of Iranian military leader is done, and it is time for Iraq to respond to the U.S. airstrike. The Iraqi response “will not be less than that of the Iran’s, and this is a promise,” al-Khazali, the commander of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia said in his tweet. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, or League of People of Righteousness, is part of Hashd Shaabi brigades. The group was allegedly funded, trained and armed by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and later became allied to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Al-Khazali’s tweet came after Iran fired ballistic missiles earlier in the day on military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq’s western province of Anbar and near the city of Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. A statement released by the media office affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, said that a total of 22 Iranian missiles were launched. Of them, 17 struck the Ayn al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, and five landed on the U.S. headquarters near the city of Erbil.