Sources Unclear on Specific Weapons and Targets, But Say At Least Two Waves of Attacks Have Been Carried Out As Part Of “Operation Martyr Soleimani”.
Iran has claimed that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has launched an attack against the al-Asad and Irbil military bases in Iraq. In the United States, the White House says it knows about the attacks, but has not made additional statements. The U.S. President is reported to already be in consultation with the appointed National Security Team.
An official statement has been released by the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman:
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. 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.
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.
Due to the dynamic nature of the situation, we will continue to provide updates as they become available.
Videos of the missiles have already started to circulate on social networks:
— Aldin 🇧🇦 (@aldin_ww) January 7, 2020
Over the previous 24 hours, the U.S. President and Iranian leadership have engaged in a social media exchange of escalating threats. Concerns have emerged that the conflict, which began with the Friday, January 3rd death of Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani and Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes in a U.S. attack, may become widespread in the region. On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump Tweeted that the U.S. had selected 52 targets of significance to Iran, including cultural sites, that would be struck if Iran retaliated for the deaths of Suleimani and al-Muhandes.
FAA just out with three NOTAMs banning US operations (US air carriers, US-registered aircraft, licensed airmen) over Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman pic.twitter.com/dcmuqdASfb
— Ethan Klapper (@ethanklapper) January 8, 2020
— Farhad Alaaldin (@farhad965) January 8, 2020
The al-Asad Airbase, also known as the Ayn al-Asad Airbase, is a multi-service joint military compound located in west-central Iraq in the Hit District of the Sunni controlled Al Anbar Governate region. The base is home to numerous U.S. and allied units from several branches including the U.S. Air Force, Marines, Army and others. There are also Iraqi units stationed at al-Asad. In November, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife made a holiday visit to the base to visit U.S. troops stationed there.
— Blesa Shaways (@Bilesa_Shaweys) January 8, 2020
According to GlobalSecurity.org, al-Asad is the second largest airbase in Iraq. It is serviced by two parallel paved runways and at least 33 hardened aircraft shelters along with secured weapons storage facilities. Al-Asad Airbase was captured from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces by the coalition Australian Special Air Service Regiment on April 16, 2003 by a special operations raid during the second Persian Gulf War in Iraq.
It looks like there were no U.S. casualties in the first two waves of missiles.
Multiple sources confirming that inbound missile warnings were issued and troops were able to shelter in bunkers. No reports of casualties at this time but final report not yet available to those I spoke with. #Iraqi #Iran
— Alex Plitsas (@alexplitsas) January 8, 2020
The unit being widely attributed to today’s missile/rocket attack on the U.S. facilities in Iraq is the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to references and reports published by Al-Jazeera, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is an Iranian expeditionary and internal security special operations unit analogous to U.S. special operations units such as Army Rangers or Navy SEALs, and to the U.S. Secret Service. They are alternately described as being an “ideologically driven militia”. The unit is tasked with protecting Iran’s religious-based Islamic republic political foundation and leadership. Their mission is accomplished by, “preventing foreign interference as well as coups by the military or other deviant movements”. As such, the role of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is both an expeditionary special forces unit operating outside Iran to interdict political turmoil and an internal/political security force tasked with preserving Iran’s religious leadership. Command and control of the unit is thought to be highly centralized within Iranian religious-backed leadership. The unit is recognized as a “terrorist organization” by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
In a previous story about Iran’s capabilities to strike back at the U.S. forces, we wrote:
One tangible threat to U.S. aligned interests in the region could come from Iranian surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, in a May 30, 2019 report, Iran likely fields a force of over 150 medium and short range ballistic missiles. Iran is also in joint development with North Korea on more advanced, long range ballistic missiles, but so far sanctions and import restrictions combined with ongoing U.S. attempts at moderation with North Korea have slowed progress on these more advanced ballistic missile programs. But even with Iran’s 150+ medium and short range ballistic missiles, analogous to Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles of the Iraq wars, there is a shortage of U.S. targets within striking range.
According to Iranian and international media (that initially reported about a rocket, rather than a missile attack) the missiles the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has launched are Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missiles, with a max range of about 300 kilometers.
Actually, the retaliation had started with a series of cyber attacks on U.S. goverment websites.
Following the attack, there have been many unverified/fake reports of U.S. aircraft launched by airbases in the Gulf area.
Reading a lot of unverified reports about U.S. jets launched after the Iranian attack on Erbil and Al-Asad Air Base. Quite unlikely if it’s confirmed to be a missile attack: only reason for scrambling jets would be to escape ground damage. Let’s wait.
— David Cenciotti (@cencio4) January 8, 2020
We will update the story as new details emerge.