New Delhi: Iran’s missile launch Wednesday, targeting two prime US air bases in Iraq, further intensified tensions in the region that saw a US drone strike kill Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last week.
The two bases targeted were al-Asad in central Iraq and and Erbil in the northern region. Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said, “Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at the al-Asad airbase, which houses US troops, and American and coalition forces in the town of Erbil.”
The missile launch, meant to be a warning to the US, saw 22 missiles being fired at the two sites between 1.45 am and 2.15 am. The missiles, though, only struck at the coalition bases. A statement by the Iraqi military also revealed that “two of the 17 missiles targeting Ain al-Asad base did not go off”. Meanwhile, the missiles aimed at Erbil ended up targeting the coalition.
Also read: Who was General Qassem Soleimani? Iran’s powerful & popular military man Trump killed
Immediately after the attack, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that Iran had taken “proportionate measures in self-defence”. He added, “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.” US President Donald Trump later simply tweeted: “All is Well!”
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
ThePrint takes a look at the significance and history of the two air bases.
Al-Asad air base
The al-Asad air base, also known as the Ain al-Asad is a hub for hundreds of US personnel. At the time of the attack, it was hosting 1,500 US and coalition forces and over 70 Norwegian troops.
An initial assessment of the incident by US military officials found that the missiles had struck parts of al-Asad base which were not populated by Americans.
The airbase is located over 110 miles southwest of Baghdad. This region is a part of the western Anbar desert of Iraq. It is a ‘sprawling complex’ which hosts US military and the US-led coalition fighting against the Islamic State militant group.
In December 2018, President Trump made a surprise visit to the al-Asad air base in order to wish the US troops during Christmas time. He was accompanied by First lady Melania Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence also arrived at the base for Thanksgiving last year.
Al-Asad is also known as the first base to be used by US troops after the 2003 Iraq invasion, which eventually led to the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Apart from this, it has also been targeted by the Iranian-backed Shia militia, Hezbollah.
The air base was also regularly targeted by the Islamic State militants in 2015. It was attacked by 25 Islamic State fighters that year.
Erbil air base
The Erbil air base is strategically located in northern Iraq. Media reports revealed that at least two ballistic missiles hit Erbil in separate areas. While one missile landed inside the Erbil International Airport and didn’t explode, the other one hit an area which was over 20 miles west of Erbil. Both these missile attacks didn’t result in any casualties.
This air base has proven to be a significant one in the past few months of Trump’s presidency. In October 2019, Delta Force commandos were placed at the Erbil air base, from where the US launched the operation that eventually led to the death Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
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