Wednesday 19 February, 2020

The global picture following the Iranian missile strikes in Iraq

A typical scene of the ongoing unrest in sections of the Middle East.

A typical scene of the ongoing unrest in sections of the Middle East.

Italy has condemned Iran’s missile strikes against the US-led coalition in Iraq and repeated its call for de-escalation of tensions.

Italy has some 900 troops in Iraq, based in Baghdad and Irbil that are involved in training Iraqi troops and in fighting the Islamic State group.

There has been no report from any member of the US-led coalition in Iraq about casualties among their forces.

After a US drone strike killed Iran’s top general last week, Italian news reports said Italy had transferred some troops from a Baghdad base to a more secure location.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry again urged European allies to work for dialogue, according to a statement.

2.15 pm

The Iraqi prime ministry says Iran notified Iraq shortly after midnight that its response to the killing of its top military commander had begun, and that retaliation would be limited to locations where the US military is present.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s office said in a statement Wednesday that Iraq was simultaneously informed by the Americans that military bases in Ain al-Asad and Irbil were under missile attack.

The office says it has received no reports of casualties on the Iraqi side and has not been officially notified of any losses among the US-led coalition.

“Iraq refuses any violation of its sovereignty and any attacks on its territory,” the statement said.

It added that Iraq is doing everything in its power to contain the situation to avoid a “devastating all-out war.”

2.05 pm

Poland’s Foreign Ministry says its ambassador to Iraq, Beata Peksa, has been evacuated to Poland for security reasons amid the rising tensions between the US and Iran.

The evacuation was at Britain’s request because Poland’s diplomatic mission is located in the British Embassy.

According to Poland’s Foreign Ministry only the ambassador was evacuated, while its embassy in Baghdad continues its work.

Poland is one of several European countries that has said their troops in Iraq were not harmed in the Iranian missile strike overnight that targeted two military bases in Iraq housing US troops.

1.55 pm

Chinese media reports say state oil company China National Petroleum Corporation has evacuated about 20 employees from the West Qurna-1 oil field in Iraq as a result of the rising tensions between the US and Iran.

No details were given, and company spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment.

The news followed the Iranian missile strike that targeted two military bases in Iraq housing US troops. The attack was in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Iran’s top commander last week near the Baghdad airport.

1.45 pm

The US Embassy in Jordan has issued a security warning to American government personnel to avoid “non-essential” movements following the Iranian missile strike that targeted two military bases in neighboring Iraq housing US troops.

In a tweet Wednesday, the embassy says that “out of an abundance of caution” American children should also be kept home from school. The embassy in Amman remains open.

1.30 pm

Anti-government protesters in Iraq have set fires and closed streets near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square during a demonstration against the Iranian missile strike that targeted two military bases in Iraq housing US troops.

The Iranian attack was in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed top Revolutionary Guard commander General Qassem Soleimani last week near the Baghdad airport.

About 100 protesters took part in Wednesday morning’s demonstration near Tahrir, the epicenter of Iraq’s protest movement. The protesters carrying Iraqi flags shouted “Iran out, out!” before they were dispersed by security forces.

The protesters who rose up against their country’s ruling elite in October, accusing them of corruption, have also been revolting against neighboring Iran’s military and political involvement.

1.20 pm

Finland’s defense forces say they received advance warning of the Iranian missile strike against bases in Iraq used by US troops.

The defense forces gave no details Wednesday, Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat reported.

They added that Finnish troops at the base in Irbil that was targeted were were protected in a bomb shelter and were not hurt. Irbil is the capital of Iraq’s self-governing Kurdish region.

12.55 pm

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has condemned the Iranian missile strike against bases hosting coalition forces in Iraq and urged Iran to refrain from further military action.

The Ministry of Defense said Wednesday there were no British casualties in the attack launched in retaliation for the US drone strike that killed Iran’s top Revolutionary Guard commander, General Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad last week.

US officials have said there are no immediate reports of US casualties.

“We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation,″ Raab said. “A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh (the Islamic State group) and other terrorist groups.” Coalition forces are in Iraq to train local forces to fight the extremists.

Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the defense committee during the previous Parliament, told the BBC it would be “extremely welcome” if Iran’s action marked the end of tensions and both sides could “get back to talking.”

12.05 pm

File photo of outside one of the Iraqi bases that were attack with Iranian missiles on Tuesday, during a visit by US President Donald Trump back in 2018. 

China’s foreign ministry is expressing concern about the spike in tensions in the Middle East and says it hopes matters can swiftly “cool off.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Wednesday that Beijing has called for restraint by all sides and is in close consultation with the governments involved, including at the United Nations and through China’s embassy in Baghdad.

He spoke after the Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces but did not address it directly.

Geng also accused the US of abusing the rights of people in the region through its military actions.

11.50 am

Germany has condemned the Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by US forces.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Wednesday the government “rejects this aggression in the sharpest possible terms.”

She told German public broadcaster ARD that “it’s now particularly up to the Iranians not to engage in further escalation.′

None of the German troops stationed in Iraq were injured.

It joined several European countries in saying their troops in Iraq were not harmed, including France, Poland, Denmark and Finland.

11.35 am

At least one missile from the Iranian strike against U.S. forces in Iraq on Wednesday landed in a field near Bardarash, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s self-governing Kurdish region.

An Iraqi Kurdish channel, Rudaw TV, showed video of police inspecting the impact site and removing shrapnel.

No casualties were reported but residents said the earth shook upon impact, and one man was seen cleaning up slight damage to his house on a nearby street.

The Kurdish region hosts American military forces at its main airport just outside Irbil.

11.15 am

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an address to the nation says “we slapped them (Americans) on the face last night” with a missile strike “but military action is not enough”.

He spoke hours after the strike at military bases in Iraq used by US forces. The strike was in retaliation for the US killing of Iran’s top military commander in Baghdad.

Khamenei added that the “corrupt presence of the US in the region should come to an end,” saying it has caused war, division, and destruction.

Iran’s supreme leader also invoked the virtues of the slain commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying he was a “great, brave warrior” and “dear friend to us.” Huge crowds in Iran have mourned Soleimani’s death last week in the airstrike in Baghdad.

10.45 am

A Russian lawmaker warns that a conflict between the US and Iran might lead to a nuclear war.

The comments by Vladimir Dzhabarov, lawmaker with Russia’s upper house of parliament, on Wednesday followed an Iranian missile strike at military bases in Iraq used by US forces. The strike was in retaliation for the U.S. killing Iran’s top military commander in Baghdad.

“Reciprocal strikes by the US and Iran may lead to an all-out war in the region,” Dzhabarov said. “If Washington sees that it can’t achieve its goals, there’s a danger of a nuclear war.”

The Russian lawmaker said the UN Security Council should get involved to prevent further escalation in the Middle East.

Iraq’s military says it had no troop casualties in the Iranian strike, and President Donald Trump tweeted that“All is well!” as casualty and damage assessments are ongoing.

10.30 am

The Iraqi military says there are no casualties among its troops as a result of an Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by US forces.

The military said in a statement carried by the state news agency Wednesday that the attack lasted half an hour, starting at 1.45 am local time.

The statement said 22 missiles were fired. Seventeen missiles hit al-Asad air base, including two that did not explode in the Hitan area west of the town of Hit. Five other missiles hit the northern region of Irbil.

9 am

The energy minister of the United Arab Emirates says he sees no immediate shortages in oil supplies, but that OPEC will be called in if there is an issue.

“The situation is not currently a war situation,” Suhail Al-Mazrouei told reporters Wednesday. “We are all hoping for de-escalation. I think wisdom will prevail despite the tension.”

He spoke after an Iranian missile strike at military bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces. The strike was in retaliation for the US killing an Iranian general in Baghdad.

He said even in past times of war, the flow of oil has been maintained.

“So let’s not exaggerate what’s happening. There is no risk that we have seen to the Strait of Hormuz or the movement of oil yet,” Al-Mazrouei said, referring to the narrow waterway between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran through which 20% of the world’s oil passes through.

He spoke reporters in Abu Dhabi at the Gulf Intelligence’s UAE Energy Forum.

Brent crude oil has jumped to around $70 a barrel amid heightened concerns over tensions between Iran and the United States.

7.40 am

Japan says it will urge governments to do their utmost to help ease tensions following an Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by US forces.

The strike came in retaliation for the killing of an Iranian general.

Japanese Chief Cabinet spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that his “government will coordinate with the related governments to collect intelligence while we ensure the safety of Japanese citizens in the region.”

He added: “Japan will also urge all related nations to do their utmost diplomatic effort to improve the relations.”

He said Japan remained on track to soon deploy a warship to the Gulf to help safeguard Japanese vessels and oil tankers transiting the area.

7.15 am

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says all of his country’s troops and diplomatic staff in Iraq are safe after Iran’s firing of missiles at two military bases there.

Around 300 Australian defense personnel are stationed in Iraq.

Morrison said he spoke with President Donald Trump about the situation between the US and Iran on Tuesday during a call about the wildfires raging in Australia.

Sepaking to reporters Wednesday, Morrison said in reference to the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani: “The United States have taken the action that they have to address what has been intelligence that they say that they received, which was putting their interests at risks and under threat.”

6.45 am

President Donald Trump says “All is well!” after more than a dozen Iranian missiles were fired at two bases housing US troops in Iraq.

Trump tweets that casualty and damage assessments are ongoing but adds: “So far, so good!”

He says he will be making a statement on the strikes Wednesday morning.

Gen Qassem Soleimani

Iranian state TV says the missile strikes were retaliation for the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose death last week in an American drone strike near Baghdad prompted angry calls to avenge his slaying.

6.05 am

Iran’s foreign minister is calling Tuesday night’s ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing US troops “proportionate measures in self-defense.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has also tweeted: “’We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

His tweet follows the missile attack in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike last week in Baghdad.

6 am

Iran has buried a top Revolutionary Guard general slain by U.S. airstrike in Baghdad after a stampede at his funeral killed 56 and Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing American troops in response.

Officials lowered the shroud-wrapped remains of Qassem Soleimani into the ground in the southeastern city of Kerman just before 6 am Wednesday.

Mourners at the grave site wailed.

Soleimani’s death in the airstrikes has drastically raised tensions between Tehran and Washington. Iran launched a ballistic missile attack just hours earlier on two Iraqi bases housing American troops.

5.55 am

A US official says there were very few, if any, casualties from Tuesday night’s Iranian missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing US troops.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of a Pentagon briefing.

The official says 15 missiles were fired. Ten struck the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province. One struck a base in Irbil in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region. Four missiles failed to hit their targets.

The official says the bases are still being searched for casualties.

Iranian state TV says the missile strikes were retaliation for the US killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose death last week in an American drone strike near Baghdad prompted angry calls to avenge his slaying.

5.10 am

The Federal Aviation Administration is barring US pilots and carriers from flying in areas of Iraqi, Iranian and some Persian Gulf airspace.

The agency is warning of the “potential for miscalculation or mis-identification” for civilian aircraft amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran. The emergency flight restrictions follow ballistic missile strikes Tuesday on two Iraqi bases that house US troops.

Such restrictions are often precautionary in nature to prevent civilian aircraft from being confused for ones engaged in armed conflict. The FAA says the restrictions are being issued due to “heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations.”

4.30 am

Vice President Mike Pence has briefed top Democrats in Congress on the Iranian strikes on installations in Iraq holding US forces.

Aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both confirmed the lawmakers spoke with the vice president by telephone Tuesday.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, says the New York Democrat is closely monitoring the situation and is praying for the safety of service members and other personnel.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted that the speaker returned a call from the vice president moments after presiding over the House.

Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the vice president, says Pence has been in continuous contact with national security officials and made calls to congressional leadership at President Donald Trump’s direction.

3.45 am

The Pentagon is confirming that Iran has launched “more than a dozen ballistic missiles” at two targets hosting against US military and coalition forces in Iraq.

Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman says “It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran.”

He says the attacks “targeted at least two Iraqi military bases” at Ain Assad and Irbil.

Hoffman says the US is “working on initial battle damage assessments.”

Iranian state TV says the attack was in revenge for the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose funeral Tuesday prompted angry calls to avenge his death.

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