The world anxiously awaited how Iran would retaliate after the U.S. killed its top general in a drone strike last week and Iran appeared to deliver its answer by launching more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. and coalition troops.
It is unclear the extent of the damage caused by the attack but so far there have been no reports of casualties.
It is also unknown if Iran plans to take further action or how the U.S. plans to respond to the attack, which was the latest aggression in an escalating conflict between the two nations that experts fear could lead to war.
President Donald Trump plans to deliver a public address Wednesday morning about the attack.
Here is what we know:
The Iranian attack
Iran fired the ballistic missiles at about 5:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday, which was early Wednesday in Iraq, Department of Defense spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
The barrage targeted the Ain Assad air base in western Iraq and the Erbil base, which is located in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The Ain al-Assad base was used by U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein and it currently houses about 1,500 U.S. and coalition forces.
“It was a massive attack with ballistic missiles,” a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY. The official said a hangar was damaged in the attack but fortunately troops had advance warning of the attack and were able to take cover.
Trump made a surprise visit there just after Christmas 2018, when he celebrated successes against the Islamic State. Vice President Mike Pence also visited the base in 2019, serving Thanksgiving dinner to service members and addressing troops at the Erbil base.
More:Trump once visited Iraq base attacked by Iran missiles
Why did Iran attack?
The Pentagon said it was “clear that these missiles were launched from Iran” and Iranian officials acknowledged they were behind the attack, which they called an act of defense in response to the death of Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
Soleimani was the head of Iran’s Quds Force, an elite unit within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was designated a terrorist organization by the Trump administration. The U.S. said Soleimani was killed because he posed an imminent threat and was plotting an attack on Americans, though officials have yet to present evidence about the plot.
The U.S. says Soleimani was behind the training of Iraqi militants after the 2003 invasion and that he is responsible for more than 600 U.S. service members killed in Iraq.
Soleimani was killed early Friday outside the Baghdad airport days after demonstrators who belonged to Iran-backed militias stormed the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital. U.S. airstrikes had killed at least two dozen fighters from one of those militias, which the U.S. said was behind a rocket attack that killed an American contractor.
‘This was an act of war’:Lawmakers react to Iran’s missile strike on US military bases
Trump to address the nation
Trump said in a tweet following the attack that he plans to address the nation Wednesday morning. The White House said he is scheduled to give his remarks at 11 a.m. EST.
“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!” Trump said.
The president had warned Iran that any attack on “Americans, or American assets” would lead to a counter-attack on 52 Iranian sites. So far, the U.S. has not acted on that threat. Some observers have said that because there were apparently no casualties in the attack, the U.S. has the opportunity to deescalate the budding conflict.
Will Iran continue to attack?
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the attack a “slap” that was “not sufficient” to avenge Soleimani, according to The Associated Press.
But Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said in a tweet that Iran had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense” with the missile strike.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” Zarif said.
The missile strike could be the end of Iran’s retaliation barring a retaliatory attack from the U.S. It is possible that Iran could take further direct military action, attack Americans with its proxy forces in the region or turn to unconventional attacks such as cyberwarfare.
Ukrainian airliner goes down in Tehran
Hours after Iran launched its missiles, a Ukrainian passenger plane crashed after takeoff from Tehran’s airport, killing all 176 people on board.
A spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry said the pilot lost control after a fire broke out in one of the plane’s engines.
There does not appear to be any connection between the crash and the tensions between the U.S. and Iran, though the investigation is ongoing.
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook, John Fritze and Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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