An Iranian regime-run media outlet claimed that more than 80 Americans were killed in an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps missile strike on US forces in Iraq early Wednesday.
“An informed source at the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said over 80 American troops were killed and some 200 wounded in the IRGC’s missile strikes on the US airbase of Ain al-Assad in Anbar province in western Iraq,” Mehr News reported on Wednesday.
The US said Wednesday that while damage assessments were still underway, there were no reports of US casualties from the strike. The Iraqi army, too, said Wednesday that no Iraqi soldiers were hurt in the assault, which followed the US killing on Friday of one of the IRGC’s top commanders, Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani.
Mehr, which is owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, a branch of the Iranian government, credited the report to “IRIB,” or the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Iran’s public broadcaster whose head is appointed directly by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“According to the accurate reports of our sources in this area, at least 80 American troops were killed and some 200 others were wounded, who were immediately transferred out of the airbase by helicopters,” the source was quoted as saying, apparently to explain the lack of any images of bodies despite the purportedly high death toll.
The source said up to 20 “critical points” on the base were struck by 15 missiles, destroying “a significant number” of US drones and helicopters.
The Iraqi military’s assessment on Wednesday said 17 missiles were fired at Al-Asad, two of which reportedly failed to explode on impact, while another five were fired at the city of Irbil in the country’s Kurdish-majority northeast.
“Despite the fact that Americans had been on high alert, their air defense was unable to respond,” the source was quoted by Mehr News as saying, warning that “As many as 104 critical points in the US’ positions in the region have been identified, which would be destroyed upon the US’ first mistake.”
Shortly after the rocket barrage, US President Donald Trump insisted “All is well!” on Twitter, and promised to make a statement to the nation Wednesday morning about the increasingly precarious situation with Iran.
Trump offered no immediate indication of whether he would retaliate, and stayed out of sight as news of the missile strikes emerged.
But he tweeted that an assessment of casualties and damages was under way. The initial outlook, he said, was “So far, so good!”
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2020
Trump said Tuesday that his decision to kill Soleimani saved American lives and that members of Congress will get a briefing on the reasons for the US attack.
“They were planning something,” he said of the Iranians.
Hours later, Iran struck back, firing the missiles at bases housing US troops and warning the United States and its allies in the region not to retaliate. The White House said the president was monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.
So far, Trump and top national security officials have justified the airstrike with general statements about the threat posted by Soleimani, who commanded proxy forces outside Iran and was responsible for the deaths of American troops in Iraq.
But the details have been scarce, and Democrats have called for more information to be made public about the threat posed to US forces by Soleimani.
“He’s no longer a monster. He’s dead,” Trump said. “And that’s a good thing for a lot of countries. He was planning a very big attack and a very bad attack for us and other people and we stopped him and I don’t think anybody can complain about it.”
Soleimani was targeted while he was at an airport in Baghdad with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a veteran Iraqi Shiite militia leader who also was killed.
Trump said they weren’t in Baghdad to discuss vacation plans or visit a “nice resort,” but were there to discuss “‘bad business.'”
Soleimani traveled frequently and relatively openly, with visits to Baghdad more frequent in recent months. He also often showed up in Syria, including along the border between Iraq and Syria.
Trump stressed that the strike was in retaliation for Iranian attacks and that the US is prepared to attack again — “very strongly.” He also said that while he eventually wants to pull US troops out of Iraq, now is not the time because it would allow Iran to gain a bigger foothold there.
In the wake of the killing, Iran announced that it will no longer be bound by the 2015 nuclear agreement and vowed to retaliate against the US, its allies and American interests, and leave “bodies of Americans” throughout the region. Iraq’s parliament also voted to urge the expulsion of US troops from Iraq, which would undermine efforts to fight Islamic State jihadists in the region and strengthen Iran’s influence in the Mideast.