Iran fired indigenously-developed ballistic missiles- Fateh-110 and Qiam-1, that blitzed Iraq’s Ain al-Asad airbase fortified with US air defense systems and reportedly housing over 1,500 troops of the US and its allies.
“We warn US allies providing bases for the [American] terrorist army… that any country serving as the origin of bellicose and aggressive attacks in any form against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be targeted,” read a statement by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Tehran is said to have launched 15 missiles at al-Asad base, and one at a facility in Erbil, allegedly from Iran’s Tabriz and Kermanshah provinces. The al-Asad base, a sprawling complex about 175km northwest of Baghdad, was the second largest US military airbase in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In December 2018, President Donald Trump visited soldiers stationed at the base.
At the time of the attack, around 70 Norwegian troops were also at the Ain al-Asad base, reports AP.
"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," US President Donald Trump said in a tweet following the attacks.
Majority of these projectiles fired are Fateh-110s, described by Iran as an “agile, stealth-capable, tactical and precision-guided missiles that can travel 300km (180 miles) carrying payload of around 225kg.” The Qiam-1 on the other hand, is a long-range, liquid fuel ballistic missile having a range of 800km and a capacity to carry 340kg warhead.
“Forewarned US personnel were able to find shelter in underground bunkers. My sources say there are no casualties presently, but the final report is not yet available to those I spoke with,” Alex Plitsas, a former Pentagon official and combat vet said in a twitter post following the Iranian attack.
Iranian proxy forces in Iraq have also struck US targets with unguided rocket artillery, according to reports.
“Automated Centurion Gatling cannons opened a storm of fire to intercept the rockets. They appeared to blast at least some of them out of the sky,” Forbes reported, citing a video captured at the al-Asad base.
Iran’s retaliatory attacks come after Iran-US tensions spiked following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the head of IRGC Quds Force on January 3. The attacks were carried out at 1.30 a.m., explicitly ordered by Tehran at the same hour Soleimani was killed, says the Forbes report.
Iran has since passed a bill designating the Pentagon and the US military as “terrorists,” and Iraq is considering expulsion of US troops from its country. Trump has threatened to slap Iraq with “sanctions like they’ve never seen before,” has warned to strike 52 culturally significant Iranian targets after Tehran vowed “severe revenge.” Trump has also demanded a payment of “trillions of dollars” for the Iraqi airbase if Baghdad were to have its way in demanding a complete troop withdrawal.
This is the second time in recent months that US air defenses had been hoodwinked. In September 2019, radars of US- supplied Patriot air defense systems came under fire for its failure to detect Yemeni drones that eventually hit two of Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil facilities. In the aftermath of the attack, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted that the Patriot "appeared to have been less effective than what they should have been."