Iran’s Supreme Leader Calls Missile Strike a ‘Slap in Face’ to U.S.: Live Updates
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed his nation hours after Iran’s foreign minister said the country had ‘concluded’ its attacks on American forces. Also on Wednesday, a passenger jet crashed in the Iranian capital, killing everyone on board.
By The New York Times
“What matters is that the presence of America,” in the region “should could come to an end,” the ayatollah said.
Here’s what you need to know:
· Iran says it did not ‘seek war’ after launching more than a dozen missiles at bases housing Americans.
· Iran’s supreme leader calls missile strike a ‘slap in the face’ to the U.S.
· At least 170 people were killed in Tehran, Iran, when a passenger jet crashed.
· Oil prices soar on news of attacks.
Iranians holding pictures of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani celebrated in Tehran after Iran launched missiles at American forces in Iraq.Credit...Wana News Agency, via Reuters
Iran says it did not ‘seek war’ after launching more than a dozen missiles at bases housing Americans.
Iran said on Wednesday it had “concluded” its attacks on American forces in Iraq and did “not seek escalation or war” after firing more than 20 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks in a tweet after Iran conducted the attacks in response to the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Senior Iraqi defense officials who work with the United States command said no Americans or Iraqis had been killed in the attacks. American officials did not, however, confirm if there were any casualties.
Britain, Sweden, Poland, Australia and Denmark, whose troops are stationed in Iraq alongside American forces, also said none of their service members had been killed.
eneral Suleimani was killed on Friday in Baghdad in a drone strike ordered by President Trump. American officials said the general, who led the guard’s foreign expeditionary Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on American interests. An American official has since described that intelligence as thin.
“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,” Mr. Zarif said.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he added.
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In a tweet, President Trump suggested that damages and casualties sustained by American forces were minimal. But he also said the assessment of the attacks was ongoing.
“All is well!,” he said in a tweet. “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”
The missiles, launched from Iran, struck the Al-Asad base in Baghdad and another in Erbil, in northern Iraq.
In a briefing in Washington, an official said that the Pentagon “had no confirmation” that any Americans had been killed.
Iranian news media reported the attacks began hours after the remains of General Suleimani were returned to his hometown in Iran for burial.
Hossein Soleimani, the editor in chief of Mashregh, the main Revolutionary Guards news website, said that more than 30 ballistic missiles had been fired at the base at Asad, in Anbar Province, in western Iraq.
In December 2018, Mr. Trump visited American military forces at Al-Asad. It was his first trip to troops stationed in a combat zone.
The base is an Iraqi base that has long been a hub for American military operations in western Iraq. Danish troops have also been stationed there in recent years.
The base in Erbil has been a Special Operations hub, home to hundreds of troops, logistics personnel and intelligence specialists. Transport aircraft, gunships and reconnaissance planes have used the airport as an anchor point for operations in both northern Iraq and deep into Syria.
Iran’s supreme leader calls missile strike a ‘slap in the face’ to the U.S.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a meeting in Tehran on Wednesday.Credit...Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said on Wednesday that his military had dealt the United States a “slap in the face” when it unleashed more than 20 missiles at American forces stationed in Iraq.
In a televised address from the holy city of Qom, Ayatollah Khamenei said incremental military actions against the United States alone were “not sufficient.”
“What matters is that the presence of America, which is a source of corruption in this region, should could come to an end,” he said to a hall filled with imams and others.
“Death to America!,” the crowd chanted. “Death to Israel!”
Ayatollah Khamenei said “sitting at the negotiating table” with American envoys opens the door to greater American intervention in the region and such negotiations therefore must “come to an end.”
“This region,” he said, “does not accept the U.S. presence.”
The ayatollah provided no additional details about the strikes on Tuesday night, in which American allies say, no one was killed.
He called General Suleimani, considered the second most powerful man in Iran, a “dear friend to us,” and praised him as a “great, brave warrior.”
At least 170 people were killed in Tehran, Iran, when a passenger jet crashed.
Debris from a plane crash on the outskirts of Tehran on Wednesday.Credit...Rohhollah Vadati/ISNA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 carrying at least 170 people on Wednesday crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran, killing everyone aboard, according to the Iranian state news media.
The circumstances of the crash were unclear. The Iranian media cited technical problems with the plane, which was bound for Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
Photos posted by Iranian news organizations showed rescuers examining smoking rubble in a field. The Iranian Students’ News Agency, a state-run media organization, shared a video it said showed the predawn crash, with a distant light descending in the distance before a bright burst filled the sky upon impact.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 departed Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran at 6:12 a.m. on Wednesday and lost contact at 6:14 a.m., according to a flight tracker.
Last signal was receivedtwo minutes after takeoff
Takeoff from ImamKhomeini InternationalAirport
By The New York Times
“We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information,” Boeing said in a statement.
Boeing has been under intense scrutiny after the crash of two 737 Max jets in less than five months, which together killed 346 people. The Max has been grounded worldwide since March, creating a crisis for the company and leading to the firing of the chief executive.
The crash came at a tense time in Iran, as political escalations with the United States had the country on edge. On Tuesday, the F.A.A. banned American airliners from flying over Iran, citing the risk of commercial planes being mistaken for military aircraft.
The crash could also touch a nerve politically in Ukraine as the airline operating the flight, Ukraine International Airlines, is partly owned through a network of offshore companies by Ihor Kolomoisky, an oligarch with close ties to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The president later expressed his condolences to the relatives and friends of the passengers and crew. Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said the victims included 82 Iranians and 11 Ukrainians, including nine Ukrainian crew members. Sixty-three passengers were from Canada, 10 from Sweden, four from Afghanistan, three from Germany and three from Britain, he said.
The crash came at a tense time in Iran, as conflict with the United States had the country on edge. On Tuesday, the F.A.A. barred American airliners from flying over Iran, citing the risk of commercial planes being mistaken for military aircraft. Several non-American carriers rerouted their flights on Wednesday to avoid Iraq and Iran, according to Flightradar24, a site that tracks airplane transponders.
Oil prices soar on news of attacks.
Oil prices jumped and markets slumped in Asia early on Wednesday, as investors tried to parse reports of missile attacks on military bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed.
But market turmoil eased later in the day after Iran suggested it was finished retaliating — for now — against the United States for the killing last week of General Suleimani.
Prices for Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, jumped above $70 a barrel in futures markets, a nearly 4 percent rise from Tuesday, before easing back. Prices were up 1.4 percent midday in Asia to $69.20 a barrel.
West Texas Intermediate, the American oil price benchmark, jumped more than 3 percent to about $65 a barrel, then eased back. As of midday it was up 1.3 percent.
Stock markets also dropped sharply but clawed back some ground later in the day. Shares in Japan opened 2.4 percent lower but was down only 1.2 percent. Markets in Hong Kong, mainland China and South Korea were down less than 1 percent.
Futures contracts representing bets on the American stock market indicated a drop of less than 1 percent in New York’s morning.
Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Farnaz Fassihi, Daniel Victor, Anton Troianovski, Andrew Kramer, Alissa J. Rubin, Eric Schmitt and Vivan Yee.
Tensions with Iran
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the response was meant to be proportionate to the American attack that killed Soleimani. The top diplomat also said Iran "concluded" its widely anticipated response Soleimani's killing.
"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," Zarif tweeted. "We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."
Iraq and US talk post strikes
Esper's office called the office of the Prime Minister of Iraq at around 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, according to a diplomatic source. There were difficulties getting through as it was the middle of the night in Baghdad. Eventually the two offices were able to connect and the source says there has been "communication between the US and Iraqi governments at the highest level."
CNN reported earlier on Tuesday that US forces and air-defense missile batteries across the Middle East were placed on high alert overnight Monday to possibly shoot down Iranian drones as intelligence mounted about a threat of an imminent attack against US targets, according to two US officials.
Part of the intelligence that led to the decision to kill Soleimani included threats to al-Assad air base, CNN reported .
A source familiar with the intelligence showed the vehicle mounted rockets, known as Grad trucks, and other military weaponry were moving closer to US interests, particularly the al-Assad air base, CNN reported.
Other targets of concern included the US air base in Qatar and US interests in Kuwait. The source noted on Friday that these threats have existed for several months but that the intelligence indicated growing urgency because of how close the missile trucks were getting to US interests.
The attack came hours after Esper told CNN that the US is not seeking a war with Iran but it is "prepared to finish one."
"We are not looking to start a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one," Esper said during an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Attack are a direct challenge to Trump
The rockets pose a direct challenge to Trump, who issued a threat to Iran on Tuesday, just hours before the attacks began on the bases. "If Iran does anything that it shouldn't be doing, they will be suffering the consequences and very strongly," the President said.
In the immediate aftermath of Soleimani's killing, Trump repeatedly stressed that the deadly drone strike was meant to reduce violence. "We took action last night to stop a war," he told reporters a day after the attack. "We did not take action to start a war."
Trump's message later shifted to warning of a "disproportionate" attack that could include targeting Iran's cultural sites, a war crime.
Iran's decision to attack is a "huge gamble," said Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor and Iran expert at the University of Ottawa who said that leaders in Tehran have included Trump's domestic political concerns in their calculations. The President ran on a platform of ending US involvement in the messy Middle East entanglements.
"Iran assesses Trump does not want to get bogged down in a large scale war in the Middle East, and that this gives it more margin to maneuver," Juneau wrote on Twitter. "Needless to say, this is a HUGE gamble given how unpredictable Trump is."
Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said Iran's attack was a foregone conclusion after the Ayatollah announced there would be retaliation. Further escalation will depend on Trump's ability to absorb the attack and a few casualties, she said.
She noted the pattern often seen in attacks on Israel and Hezbollah, in which one side attacks, the other responds, the attacks are absorbed and mediation begins through a third party.
"From Trump's rhetoric, he doesn't seem as if he's willing to absorb any Iranian retaliation -- no matter how proportional it is to the US attack that killed Soleimani -- and that means we're locked into an escalatory spiral that will push us into war that will unfold on Iranian territory, but also in the rest of region, including Iraq," Slim said.
Lawmakers urged calm. Rep. Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN's there's a need to "tone down the rhetoric on all sides and see how we can extricate ourselves from this nightmare because I don't think the American people want to go to war."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was discussing the situation in Iran when she was handed a note with news of the attack, lawmakers who attended the meeting said.
Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat, said she paused the discussion to tell the members of the Steering Committee of the news.
"Pray," Pelosi told members, according to Rep. Debbie Dingell.
This story has been updated.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Alex Marquadt, Pamela Brown, Michael Callahan, Haley Byrd, Kaitlan Collins, Manu Raju and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report. CNN's Ingrid Formanek, Kareem Khadder, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jomana Karadsheh and Arwa Damon.