Live Updates: Ayatollah Calls Iran Missile Strikes a ‘Slap in the Face’ to the U.S.
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U.S. and Iraqi officials said there were no deaths from the attacks on bases housing American troops. But Iranian news outlets claimed differently, with some reporting dozens killed.

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President Hassan Rouhani of Iran says Tehran’s final answer to the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani will be to kick all U.S. forces out of the region.


Credit…Wana News Agency, via Reuters

The Iranian foreign minister said on Wednesday that his country had “concluded” its attacks on American forces and did “not seek escalation or war” after firing more than 20 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq where United States troops are stationed.

The minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, posted the remarks on Twitter after Iran had conducted the strikes 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 that no Americans or Iraqis had been killed in the attacks. In a short statement released on Wednesday morning, the Joint Command in Baghdad, which includes both Iraqi troops and soldiers from the international coalition, said that neither force “recorded any losses.”

In a briefing in Washington, an official said that the Pentagon “had no confirmation” that any Americans had been killed. Australia, Britain, Denmark, Poland and Sweden, whose troops are stationed in Iraq alongside American forces, also said that none of their service members had been killed.

Some Iranian outlets had a different version of events. Fars, a news agency that is associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said that “at least 80 U.S. troops” had been killed in the strikes, citing an unnamed senior official from the military group.

General Suleimani was killed on Friday in Baghdad in a drone strike ordered by President Trump. American officials said the general, who led the foreign expeditionary Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, had been planning imminent attacks on American interests. One American official has since described that intelligence as thin.

“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.” Mr. Zarif wrote in his Twitter message, adding, “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

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 posted on Twitter. “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

President Trump planned to address the nation in a speech on Wednesday morning.

The missiles, launched from Iran, struck Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq and another in Erbil, in the north of the country.

Iranian news media reported that the attacks had begun hours after the remains of General Suleimani were returned to his hometown in Iran for burial. President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday wrote on Twitter that the general “fought heroically” against a number of jihadist groups and that Europe was safer because of his efforts.

“Our final answer to his assassination will be to kick all US forces out of the region,” he posted.

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 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 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 that “sitting at the negotiating table” with American envoys would open the door to greater American intervention in the region and that 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 Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, considered to have been the second-most powerful man in Iran, a “dear friend to us,” and praised him as a “great, brave warrior.”

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, in his meeting with the council of ministers on Wednesday morning, detailed his country’s larger regional goal in comments directed at the Americans. “You cut off the hand of Qassim Suleimani from his body and we will cut off your feet from the region,” he said.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq released a statement on Wednesday saying his government would “continue its intense attempts to prevent escalation” in the simmering conflict between Iran and the United States.

After Iranian missile strikes on bases housing American troops in Iraq, Mr. Abdul Mahdi objected to the violation of his country’s sovereignty, echoing comments he made after the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani on Friday and after American strikes on an Iranian-backed militia in western Iraq in late December. But Mr. Abdul Mahdi noted that the Iraqis were given some warning about the Iranian strike.

In a statement, he said the government had received an official message from Tehran that the “retaliation” for General Suleimani’s killing had begun and that it would target American sites in Iraq. But there had been no prior warning about the exact locations, he added.

“At the same time, the American side called us as the rockets were falling on the American side,” at the two bases, Mr. Abdul Mahdi said in the statement. He noted that there had been no loss of life on the Iraqi side and no reports of coalition deaths.

Although the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Wednesday that his country had concluded its attack, officials around the region cautioned that the statement did not mean Tehran was done maneuvering, and Iran’s leadership has reiterated its goal of forcing United States troops out of the Middle East.

Two bases housing American troops were targeted by Iran in Wednesday’s missile strikes: Al Asad Air Base in Anbar Province and another installation in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region.

In December 2018, President Trump visited American military forces at the Asad base. It was his first trip to troops stationed in a combat zone.

The base is an Iraqi installation that has long been a hub for American military operations in western Iraq, and other international coalition 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.

A Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 carrying at least 170 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran, killing everyone aboard, according to the Iranian state news media.

The circumstances of the crash were unclear. The Iranian outlets cited technical problems with the plane, which was bound for Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. The crash came at a tense time in Iran, as conflict with the United States had the country on edge.

Photographs posted by Iranian news organizations showed rescuers examining smoking rubble in a field. The state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency 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.

The plane, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, departed Imam Khomeini International Airport, which serves Tehran, at 6:12 a.m. on Wednesday and lost contact at 6:14 a.m., according to a flight tracker.

“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 on Wednesday 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 Ukrainian president 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 Britain and three from Germany, he said.


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Iran launched missile attacks on two military bases in Iraq where American and Iraqi forces are stationed, in retaliation for the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in a U.S. airstrike. There was no immediate confirmation of casualties.CreditCredit…Nasser Nasser/Associated Press

A number of international airlines announced that flights would be avoiding the airspace over Iran and Iraq after reports of strikes on bases housing American troops in Iraq. The moves also came after the apparently unrelated news of the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane in the early hours of Wednesday near Tehran. Other airlines have canceled flights to the region.

On Tuesday, the F.A.A. barred American airliners from flying over Iran, citing the risk of commercial planes being mistaken for military aircraft.

The Dutch airline KLM said on Wednesday that it was no longer flying in Iraqi or Iranian airspace “until further notice,” citing security risks. Air France and the Australian carrier Qantas took similar measures, news agencies reported.

The German carrier Lufthansa also announced the temporary cancellation of a daily flight between Frankfurt and Tehran because of the security situation, according to Reuters, but later said it would restart that route on Thursday.

The European Union on Wednesday condemned Iran’s rocket attacks on Iraqi bases housing American and coalition troops, urging an end to the “spiral of violence” that has gripped the region. The bloc also urged the continuation of dialogue to calm tensions in the Middle East after an American drone strike in Iraq that killed an Iranian commander on Friday.

“The latest rocket attacks on air bases in Iraq used by U.S. and coalition forces, among them European forces, are yet another example of escalation and increased confrontation,” said the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles. “It is in no one’s interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further.”

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that “the use of weapons must stop now to give space to dialogue,’’ adding, “we all are called upon to do everything possible to rekindle talks and there cannot be enough of that.’’

She also said that the bloc remained committed to trying to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reached out to all signatories, including Russia and China. The call to save the deal comes despite Tehran’s phased retreat from its obligations under the agreement after President Trump abandoned it in 2018 and reimposed harsh economic sanctions.

Mr. Borrell has invited the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to Brussels, and European foreign ministers will meet there on Friday to discuss the Iran crisis.

The two European Union officials spoke before Ms. von der Leyen flew to London for talks on Brexit with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain. Mr. Johnson, speaking in the British Parliament on Wednesday, echoed the calls for calm but said that the Iranian general killed by the United States last week had “blood on his hands.”

“Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation,” Mr. Johnson said.

The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also condemned the strikes and said that he was in touch with “all of the parties involved to encourage restraint and responsibility.”

“The cycle of violence must stop,” Mr. Le Drian said in a statement on Wednesday. “France for its part remains determined to work toward calming tensions.”

Oil prices leapt 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 Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

Prices for Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, soared 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 closed only 1.2 percent down. 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 Alissa J. Rubin, Falih Hassan, Megan Specia, Ben Hubbard, Steven Erlanger, Russell Goldman, Farnaz Fassihi, Daniel Victor, Anton Troianovski, Andrew Kramer, Eric Schmitt and Vivian Yee.

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