“We are not looking for escalation or war,” said the Iranian foreign minister after the strikes on Tuesday night.
Tehran responds. Five days after the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the United States, Iran responded on the night of Tuesday, January 7 to Wednesday, January 8, by firing missiles against two bases sheltering American soldiers in Iraq.
>> Iranian response to Qassem Soleimani's death: follow the situation live with franceinfo
These raids make fear a regional escalation or an open conflict, even if the American and Iranian leaders quickly seemed to want to calm the game. Franceinfo summarizes what we know for the moment on these strikes.
What happened ?
The Pentagon announced that more than a dozen missiles had been launched at 1:30 a.m. (11 p.m. Tuesday Paris time) from Iran against the Al Assad and Erbil bases in Iraq. The Iraqi military command, for its part, lists twenty-two missiles fired on its soil, without making any “victim among Iraqi forces”. “Between 1:45 am and 2:15 am (11:45 pm and 12:15 am in France), Iraq was bombed by 22 missiles – seventeen at the Aïn al-Assad air base (…) and five at the city of Erbil – all of which affected coalition facilities “ anti-Jihadists led by the United States.
The Iranian website Mashregh, close to the Guardians of the Revolution, said for its part that more than thirty missiles had targeted the Al-Assad base. The Iranian public media immediately broadcast images of the operation named “martyr Soleimani”, named after the general killed Friday in an American strike. We can see a missile launch presented as being aimed at American interests in Iraq.
What is the balance sheet?
It is currently uncertain. President Donald Trump said an estimate of the number of potential victims and the damage was underway. Also present in Iraq, Canada and the United Kingdom indicated that they had not suffered any losses during these strikes.
CAF families: I can assure you that all deployed CAF personnel are safe & accounted for following missile attacks in Iraq. We remain vigilant.
– General Jonathan Vance (@CDS_Canada_CEMD) January 8, 2020
About 6,000 U.S. soldiers were deployed to various bases in Iraq in December, says the New york times, which recalls that Washington had sent up to 150,000 soldiers there simultaneously at the height of the operation Iraqi Freedom (“Iraqi freedom”), between 2003 and 2011.
How important are the two targeted bases?
Built in the 1980s for Iraqi forces, the Al-Assad air base became from 2003 one of the main installations of American troops in the country, reports the BBC (article in English). The Americans disengaged there from 2009, before returning in 2014 to make this installation one of the main bases in the fight against the Islamic State organization.
About five hundred U.S. military and civilian personnel were stationed at Al-Assad in 2017, said New York Times (article in English), who adds that the aerodrome was equipped with drones and reconnaissance planes. Donald Trump himself went on the spot during a surprise visit organized at the end of December 2018. The American military presence was less there since Daesh's military defeat in 2019, but still remained “robust”, specifies the daily.
Located in Erbil, in northern Iraq, Tehran's second base was a special operations center for hundreds of American soldiers throughout the conflict against the Islamic State organization. In an article published in September on its official website, The U.S. military said the facility was home to “more than 3,600 soldiers and civilians from thirteen different countries”. It was from this base that the operation that led to the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the terrorist organization, began last October. New york times.
How was Iran justified?
In a message posted on Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country had led and “finished” in the night of reprisals “Proportionate” after the elimination by the United States of General Qassem Soleimani. “We are not looking for escalation or war”, he insisted.
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.
– Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2020
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic, for their part advised Washington to recall the troops deployed in the region “in order to avoid further losses”, and threatened to strike Israel and “allied governments” from America.
How did the United States react?
“Everything is fine !” In a particularly light-hearted tweet, Donald Trump said he would make a statement Wednesday morning and hinted that the toll was not very heavy. “The damage and casualty assessment is underway. So far so good!”, he launched.
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.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2020
What are the consequences of this response?
Pending a more specific statement from the White House, the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) has already banned American civil aircraft from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Persian Gulf.
#FAA Statement: #NOTAMs issued outlining flight restrictions that prohibit U.S. civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. pic.twitter.com/kJEbpPddp3
– The FAA (@FAANews) January 8, 2020
Sign of the concern of the markets faced with the situation, oil prices soared more than 4.5% Wednesday morning during the first exchanges in Asia.
In what context do these strikes occur?
The shootings came just after the funeral of General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated on Friday in Baghdad with the Iraqi Abu Mehdi al-Mouhandis, leader of pro-Iran paramilitaries now integrated into the Iraqi security forces, had just ended.
If Donald Trump clearly dismissed Tuesday any intention to leave Iraq, some of the United States' western allies have announced their partial military withdrawal, fueling fears that current tensions will undermine the anti-Jihadist struggle.
A withdrawal of American troops “would be the worst thing that could happen to Iraq”, said the tenant of the White House, referring to the danger that in his eyes represents for this country the imposing neighbor Iranian. “At some point, we will leave”, “but that moment has not come”, he assured.