A top commander of Iran’s missile array said Thursday that missile strikes on US bases were “the start of big operations which will continue in the entire region,” adding that Tehran had the capability to kill 5,000 American soldiers in the attack, but chose not to.
On Wednesday Iran fired over a dozen missiles at US bases in Iraq. The missiles were fired in response to the American killing last week of senior military IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani.
Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh of the IRGC Aerospace Force, who is in charge of missiles that can hit US bases across the region, said Iran could have planned high casualty operations to kill 500 US soldiers in the first stage of the attack, and 4,000 to 5,000 others in the second and third phases within a 48-hour period, according to Iran’s Fars news agency.
Hajizadeh also said that the missiles were not fired at US bases with the intention of causing injuries, but claimed that dozens of US troops were killed and injured and were transferred to Jordan and Israel.
“We were not after killing anyone although tens of US troops have likely been killed and wounded and were transferred to Israel and Jordan on 9 sorties of C-130 flights,” Hajizadeh said.
Iran claimed 80 US troops were killed in the strikes, and warned that it could strike next at Israel; the US said there were no casualties.
Hajizadeh said Monday that even killing US President Donald Trump would not be satisfactory retribution for America’s slaying of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps senior commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Rather, only the complete removal of US forces from the entire Middle East would suffice, he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the massive funeral for Soleimani in Tehran, Hajizadeh said that revenge required more than “just four missiles, targeting a US base, or even killing Trump,” Iran Front Page reported.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking on Wednesday, said the strike was not necessarily the totality of Iran’s response.
“Last night they received a slap,” Khamenei said. “These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”
A senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps warned recently that Tel Aviv could also be targeted, while a former head of the IRGC threatened to turn Israeli cities “to dust” if the US attacks targets in Iran.
Iran, for days, had promised to respond forcefully to Soleimani’s killing, but its limited strike on two bases — one in the northern Iraqi city in Irbil and the other at Ain al-Asad in western Iraq — appeared to signal that it was also uninterested in a wider clash with the US.
Iran on Friday denied Western allegations a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed outside Tehran was brought down by an Iranian missile and called on the US and Canada to share any information they have on the crash, which killed all 176 people on board.
Western leaders said the plane appeared to have been unintentionally hit by a surface-to-air missile near Tehran, just hours after Iran launched the ballistic missiles at the two US bases in Iraq.
Agencies contributed to this report.