Fears of another war in the Middle East are heightening after Iran launched a huge missile strike on two American military bases, a dramatic escalation of simmering conflict between the two nations.
U.S. defense officials confirmed the news in a statement, saying “more than a dozen ballistic missiles” had been launched on early Wednesday morning local time. Damage and potential casualties at this stage are unclear.
Iranian state media reported its military had taken responsibility for a missile strike on the al-Asad airbase in Iraq, an important American military installation in the region. The country’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed its air force had launched “tens” of missiles.
It comes days after Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani was killed in an American strike — an attack Iran promised “crushing revenge” in response to.
“This morning, courageous fighters of the IRGC’s Air Force launched a successful operation called Operation Martyr Soleimani, with the code ‘Oh Zahra’ by firing tens of ground-to-ground missiles at the base of the terrorist and invasive US forces,” Iran’s state-run news outlet ISNA reported.
The U.S. Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Jonathan Hoffman, said in a statement that American officials were still trying to ascertain the extent of the damage.
“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,” he said.
“We are working on initial battle damage assessments.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said U.S. President Donald Trump was “monitoring” the situation.
Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds military Force, was killed in an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq on Friday.
The U.S. Defense Department said the “decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel” was ordered by President Trump.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the department said in a statement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Soleimani was killed “in response to imminent threats to American lives” — but refused to detail the alleged threat.