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Iran has retaliated for the killing of Soleimani and struck two US bases in Iraq with several missiles. Initial US reports suggest that the attack caused no American casualties. Nonetheless, the world is spellbound by how Washington will react.

In any case, the Iranian retaliatory attack on US soldiers in Iraq fuel fears of further escalation and a possible new war in the Middle East. The Pentagon confirmed attacks on the US bases Ain al-Assad west of Baghdad and in northern Erbil on Wednesday night.

After the attacks, CNN and Fox News first announce that President Trump would likely address the nation in the later hours. Instead, Trump responded via Twitter writing, “All is well!” while also announcing a statement for Wednesday morning. Potential victims and damages were currently being assessed, he added. And: “We have the most powerful and well-equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!”.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards stated that “Operation Martyr Soleimani” had obliterated the Ain al-Assad airbase with 35 missiles. The attack with ballistic missiles on the “base occupied by the Americans was a complete success in every respect.” Moreover, Iranian state television reported, contrary to the US’ statements, 80 “American terrorists” were killed in the attack.

Infographic by Alberto Bellotto

Around 5,000 US soldiers are stationed in several bases in Iraq, leading the international military alliance against the terrorist militia “Islamic State.” “These bases have been on high alert for signs of planned attacks by the Iranian regime on our troops and interests in the region,” the US Department of Defense commented.

The Iranian government’s first official statement after the attacks came from Foreign Minister Zarif, who stated that Iran was not striving for escalation or war but will defend itself “against aggression.”. Iran had “taken and completed proportionate self-defense measures” under Article 51 of the UN Charta.

Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went one step further and referred to the attacks as a “slap in the face” for the United States. Moreover, the US troops would have to leave the region, as their presence is the source of corruption, but because the United States was “the enemy of Iran.”

Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guard warned the “great Satan” USA of conducting counterattacks. Every US response would be answered with a stricter response, which could also include attacks on Israel, a spokesman of Khamenei stated. In addition, US allies should know that their bases, which are made available to the Americans, could also be targeted by Iranian attacks if attacks on Iran were carried out from there. The United States should withdraw its troops so that their lives are not endangered.

It remains to be seen to what degree Iran’s statements and figures, and indeed perhaps the whole attack, are simply propaganda measures. Clarity on it will likely be provided once President Trump addresses the public today. However, the US media stands by its reporting that there were no casualties on the part of the United States and that Iran fired “only” twelve missiles.

The likelihood of a calculated propaganda attack by Teheran will increase if initial US reports on casualties are accurate, based on the locations Iran targetted. Al-Assad and Erbil host significantly fewer US soldiers than, for instance, Balad, which is in even closer proximity to Iran and arguably easier to hit. Thus one can assume that if Iran wanted to cause maximum damage, it could very likely have attacked a different base. Whether or not this is the case and Iran’s attempt to save face without starting an all-out war will likely be answered over these next hours.

Nonetheless, the fact that, unlike in the past, Iran has not used proxies, but conducted the attacks directly has established a new level of escalation.

Whatever facts and statements will transpire from Washington, this will be President Trump’s biggest test as Command in Chief. His reaction today will not only decide war and peace but probably his presidency.

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