AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES (8 January 2020)- Iran has fired more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops, the Pentagon confirmed.
The missiles targeted the Ain al-Assad base in Anbar province and a facility near Erbil’s airport in northern Iraq early on Wednesday morning; they were fired in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani by the US, Iran said.
US President Donald Trump said he would make a statement on the attacks on Wednesday morning in Washington, DC.
As tension increases, governments around the world are calling for a return to diplomacy and considering plans to withdraw their citizens.
Below are reactions from around the world.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in a tweet on Wednesday condemned the rocket attacks on Iraqi bases housing US troops and called on Iran to “refrain from further violence”.
I condemn the Iranian missile attacks on US & @coalition forces in Iraq. #NATO calls on Iran to refrain from further violence. Allies continue to consult & remain committed to our training mission in Iraq.
A NATO official said there were no casualties among the troops on its training mission in Iraq. The alliance nevertheless announced on Tuesday that it was moving some of its trainers out of Iraq.
“We are taking all precautions necessary to protect our people. This includes the temporary repositioning of some personnel to different locations both inside and outside of Iraq,” a NATO official told Reuters news agency.
The NATO Iraq mission, made up of several hundred trainers, advisers and support staff from both countries of the 29-member alliance and non-NATO partner countries, includes military and civilian personnel.
The French foreign ministry expressed its condemnation of the Iranian strikes targeting military bases housing US troops in Iraq.
“France would like to highlight again the importance of continuing the fight against the Islamic State, while respecting the sovereignty of Iraq,” said a statement from the ministry.
Kurdish region of northern Iraq
Leaders of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq said US-led military support in fighting the ISIL (ISIS) group was vital and urged its member states not to allow the group’s revival.
“In regards to the recent events, and in particular this morning’s, the Kurdistan Region reiterates that military solution will in no way solve the problems,” the regional president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker said in a statement.
“The Kurdistan Region supports de-escalation of the situation and seeks dialogue and diplomatic solution to the problems. It also seeks stability and peace and urges all parties to refrain from dragging the Kurdistan Region into the rivalries.”
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg labelled the Iranian missile attacks “an escalation”.
“This is an an escalation and a retaliation. Our main message is that it is important to find means to de-escalate this conflict. We are not served if this erupts into war,” Solberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB.
Solberg said Oslo was in touch with other countries in the international coalition against ISIL.
Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen is “deeply concerned over the dramatic escalation we have seen in recent days”.
“I would urge all sides to calm the situation down and prevent it from escalating out of control,” he added in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhahu warned that his country would strike back hard against anyone who attacked it, reiterating his support for the Trump administration following the killing of Soleimani.
“Whoever tries to attack us will be dealt the strongest blow,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem.
He said Israel “stands completely” beside Donald Trump’s decision, saying the US president should be congratulated for acting “swiftly, boldly and resolutely”.
Spain’s acting Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the government has pulled out some of its troops from Iraq due to security concerns.
“Those who were in riskier positions have left for Kuwait,” Calvo told state broadcaster RTVE. “There is only a reduced number left there.”
The decision comes as NATO announced it would move some of its military training personnel out of Iraq amid fears of a regional conflagration.
The European Commission called for an immediate end to the use of weapons in the Middle East conflict amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, urging efforts to restart dialogue.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news briefing before departing to London that she would discuss the situation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“The use of weapons must stop now to give space for dialogue,” she told reporters after a meeting of her commissioners.
“We are called upon to do everything possible to rekindle talks. There cannot be enough of that. We have established and time-tested relations with many actors in the region and beyond to de-escalate the situation,” she said.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said her country “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.
The United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said it is essential that the region pulls back from current “troubling” tensions.
“De-escalation is both wise and necessary. A political path towards stability must follow,” Gargash said on Twitter.
Poland’s defence minister said Polish troops stationed in Iraq were not hurt during Wednesday’s missile attacks.
“None of the Polish soldiers in Iraq were hurt in rocket attacks on Al-Asad and Erbil bases. We are in constant contact with the commander of the Polish Military Contingent in Iraq,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.
The United Kingdom condemned the Iranian missile attacks on military bases in Iraq that hosted US-led coalition forces including British personnel.
“We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition – including British – forces,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
“We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation.”
During a parliamentary session on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Iran to “not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation”.
Iraq’s military said there were no Iraqi casualties among its forces in Wednesday’s 22-missile attack on the two military installations.
“Iraq was subjected between 1:45 and 2:45 this morning of 8 January 2020 to bombardment by 22 missiles; 17 missiles fell on Ain al-Assad airbase including two that did not explode … and five on the city of Erbil that all fell on coalition headquarters. No casualties among Iraqi forces were recorded,” the statement said.
Japan urged governments to do their utmost to help ease tensions following the missile strikes. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to call off a visit this weekend to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Spokesman Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that his “government will coordinate with the related governments to collect intelligence while we ensure the safety of Japanese citizens in the region”.
“Japan will also urge all related nations to do their utmost diplomatic effort to improve the relations,” he added.
Japan is sending a warship to the Gulf to help safeguard Japanese vessels and oil tankers travelling through the area.
Some of Canada’s 500 military personnel based in Iraq will be temporarily moved to Kuwait for safety reasons, the country’s top military official said on Tuesday.
“Over the coming days, and as a result of Coalition and NATO planning, some of our people will be moved temporarily from Iraq to Kuwait,” said the defence staff chief, General Jonathan Vance, in a letter to military families posted on Twitter.
“Simply put, we are doing this to ensure their safety and security,” he wrote.
Citing the continuing volatile security situation, the regional threat of “terrorism” and the risk of arbitrary detention, Ottawa on Wednesday issued a travel warning asking its citizens to avoid “non-essential” travel to Iran.
It asked its citizens to “avoid all travel” to the area within 10 kilometers of Iran’s border with Iraq.
|Iran launches missile attacks on US forces in Iraq|
Following the attacks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all his country’s troops and diplomatic staff in Iraq were safe.
Approximately 300 Australian defence personnel are stationed in Iraq.
Morrison said he had discussed the situation between the US and Iran with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday during a call about the bushfires raging in Australia.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Morrison said in reference to Soleimani’s killing: “The United States have taken the action that they have to address what has been intelligence that they say they received, which was putting their interests at risk and under threat.”
The Philippines has ordered its citizens to leave Iraq in the wake of the strikes by Iran, the Philippine foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
“The alert level in the entire Iraq has been raised to alert level 4 calling for mandatory evacuation,” said Eduardo Mendez, spokesman at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The department said there were 1,600 Philippine citizens working in Iraq, more than half in the Kurdish Region of northern Iraq and the rest at US and other foreign facilities in Baghdad.
A Philippine coastguard patrol vessel, newly acquired from France and en route to the Philippines, was ordered to sail to Oman and Dubai to assist citizens who may need to leave.
“Overseas Filipino workers will be brought to safer ports where there may be airlifted as the need arises,” the coastguard said in a statement.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who heads a newly created committee to prepare the evacuations, said on Tuesday the government was preparing aircraft for Filipinos in Iraq and Iran who wished to come home or move to safer areas.
About 2.3 million people from the Philippines are working in the Middle East as domestic helpers, construction workers, engineers and nurses.
Pakistan has issued a statement advising citizens planning to visit Iraq to exercise “maximum caution”.
“In view of recent developments and the prevailing security situation in the region, Pakistani nationals are advised to exercise maximum caution while planning visit to Iraq at this point,” the statement read.
“Those already in Iraq are advised to remain in close contact with the Embassy of Pakistan in Baghdad.”
The Danish armed forces said in a post on Twitter that no Danish soldiers were injured or killed in Wednesday’s missile strike on the Al-Asad airbase in Iraq.
Denmark has about 130 soldiers at the base as part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
India has advised its nationals to avoid all non-essential travel to Iraq until further notice.
Those already in the country have been told to be alert and avoid travelling around the country.
New Zealand’s acting prime minister, Winston Peters, expressed concern over the escalation in hostilities between Iran and the US.
“Now is the time for restraint and de-escalation, and for diplomacy to take over….the government has been informed that all New Zealand personnel are as safe as they can be in these developing circumstances,” Peters said.
New Zealand has 50 military personnel in Iraq, where Iran attacked two bases on Wednesday. Camp Taji, where most of those personnel are stationed, was not attacked, Peters said