A senior Iraqi cleric has urged supporters not to attack the United States, shortly after Donald Trump said Iran appeared to be backing down from its bellicose threats.
“I call on the Iraqi factions to be deliberate, patient, and not to start military actions, and to shut down the extremist voices of some rogue elements until all political, parliamentary and international methods have been exhausted,” said influential Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
It came after Donald Trump urged Britain and others to “recognise reality” and withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in response to an Iranian missile strike on US forces in Iraq earlier on Wednesday.
The US president said Iran appeared to be backing down after it fired the 22 missiles, but announced fresh sanctions on Iran and he singled out the United Kingdom as one of the members of the ailing nuclear deal, urging Boris Johnson to follow America’s lead and withdraw from the pact. Mr Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018.
“The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout,” he told a press conference at the White House.
“Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism…the time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China to recognise this reality.”
He added: “They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal – or JCPOA – and we must all work together towards making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.”
It came as US officials speculated that Iran ‘aimed to miss’ when it fired missiles at US forces, it emerged there were no casualties in the rocket barrage.
According to Bloomberg, a US official said that no Americans were killed in the strike, leading the Pentagon to believe that the Iranian regime was “aiming to miss.”
However, experts said the type of missile Iran used was notoriously unreliable, and that the regime may well have missed targets by accident.
It came as Boris Johnson has said he opposes any “escalation of violence” in the Middle East, as he urged Iran not to repeat its missile attacks that struck US bases in Iraq overnight and called for them to back down from conflict.
The Prime Minister, who added that there appeared to be no UK casualties following the strike on Western forces, called on Iran to pursue “urgent de-escalation.”
As details emerged of the retaliatory strikes, where 22 missiles were fired, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation.”
Iran launched surface-to-surface missiles in attacks on the Ain al-Assad and Erbil bases as revenge for the killing of Gen Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad last week.
There are so far no reports of casualties, but it was Iran’s most direct assault on America since the 1979 seizing of the US Embassy in Tehran. The operation was codenamed “Martyr Soleimani”.
In a tweet, Donald Trump said: “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.”
In a sign that Tehran was seeking to draw a line under the recent escalation of tensions, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said: “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression”.
Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei has said the missile strikes were a “slap in the face” for Washington.
The head of state reiterated added that the US may have ‘cut off Soleimani’s arm’ but Iran would respond by ‘cutting off your leg’ in the Middle East region.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a branch of the Iranian army close to the country’s supreme leader, has ordered the White House to “recall US troops” from the region.
The Pentagon confirmed the attacks: “At approximately 5.30pm (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 US military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil.”
What we know so far
- Iran launches more than a dozen rockets at US bases in Iraq
- Al-Assad and Erbil bases targeted
- Trump tweets: “All is well!” and “So far, so good!”
- Price of oil leaps after attack
- Operation codenamed “Martyr Soleimani”
- No casualties reported
Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said: “It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran.”
He said the attacks “targeted at least two Iraqi military bases” and that the US is “working on initial battle damage assessments”. There are about 5,000 American troops in Iraq.
Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and Mark Esper, the defence secretary, arrived quickly at the White House to brief the president.
Mr Raab said: “We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting Coalition – including British – forces.
He added: “A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh and other terrorist groups.”
Source The Telegraph.