Iran fired a series of ballistic missiles that hit two air bases used by United States troops in Iraq early morning local time Wednesday, in what appeared to be the first retaliatory strikes by Tehran for the killing of one of its top generals.
“At approximately 5:30 p.m. (EST) on January 7, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq… and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
Last week, at the orders of President Donald Trump, the US killed the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, in a targeted airstrike in Baghdad. Iran vowed “harsh revenge.”
The IRGC confirmed Wednesday that it launched “tens of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles” in the name of Soleimani.
“We warn the Great Satan, the bloodthirsty and arrogant regime of the US, that any new wicked act or more moves and aggressions (against Iran) will bring about more painful and crushing responses,” the IRGC said in a statement carried by Iranian state media, which added that the IRGC urged for the recall of US forces from the region to avoid further loss of US life.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif later said the attack was in self-defense.
“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched,” he said on Twitter.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he added.
Trump, who according to White House correspondents was seen meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper after news of the attack, later issued a tweet saying “All is well!”
“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!” he said, adding that he would make a statement in the morning.
A police source in the province of Al Anbar and another source in the Iraqi Army confirmed to EFE that at least 13 missiles hit the Al Asad military base.
The police source said several missiles were launched against that base located in the area of Al Bagdadi, west of the provincial capital Ramadi, but the damage caused by the impact was unknown.
The Iraqi Army source said that 13 missiles hit Al Asad and explosions were heard within the perimeter of the base, but could not confirm any casualties.
The Pentagon had said that “in recent days and in response to Iranian threats and actions, the Department of Defense has taken all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners.”
“These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region,” Hoffman added.
House Speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi said she was “closely monitoring the situation.”
“We must ensure the safety of our service members, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war,” she added. EFE-EPA
The United States (US) has evacuated its citizens from the virus-hit cruise ship Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan.
Two planes carrying around 300 American citizens left Haneda Airport on Monday morning (February 17).
South Korea also plans to bring home their citizens in the said cruise ship.
“Even before February 19, the government plans to bring those South Koreans home if they are tested negative from screenings by the Japanese authorities and are willing to return. We will first check our people’s intentions and then cooperate with the Japanese government,” according to South Korea Minister of Health and Welfare, Park-Neung Hoo.
Canada and Hong Kong will also send planes to evacuate their citizens.
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said they will assist in repatriating Filipino crewmen aboard the cruise ship.
538 Filipinos are aboard the Diamond Princess, 531 are crewmen while 7 are passengers. There already 27 of them who tested positive of COVID-19.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Ed Meñez said the Filipinos who tested positive of the virus are already brought to the hospital for better care.
“We received information that aside from the 11 Filipino crew members who are earlier identified, another 16 have been identified over the weekend to have been identified as COVID positive,” he said.
The DFA also said the Inter-Agency Task Force will discuss their planned action in a meeting to assist the Filipinos aboard the cruise ship.—AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)
MANILA, Philippines — The military exercises between the Philippines and the United States scheduled for the following months will still push through despite the Duterte government’s move to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Thursday.
In a statement, Lorenzana said the training between Filipino and American soldiers will still proceed as scheduled within the 180 days that the VFA remains in force.
“With the formal serving of the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, this year’s planned military exercises with the Americans shall proceed as scheduled within the 180 days that the VFA remains in force,” he said.
The Defense chief, however, said American troops may opt to discontinue the exercises before the 180 days are up.
Once the VFA’s termination is final, Lorenzana said Filipino troops will stop conducting military drills with their American counterparts.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday confirmed that they have received the notice of termination sent by the Philippine government. — RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)
MANILA, Philippines – The Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States “will now be reduced to a mere paper treaty” with the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Senator Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday.
“Like it or not, bad or good, nothing much can be done now but do a 180-day countdown upon receipt of the notice by Washington,” Lacson said in a statement.
“What is certain is that the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty will now be reduced to a mere paper treaty as far as the US is concerned,” he added.
Lacson made the statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) signed and sent a notice formally scrapping the VFA to the United States.
The MDT was signed by Washington and Manila in 1951 where both parties agreed to support each other in case of an armed attack.
The VFA, on the other hand, came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines.
It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.
The deal may be terminated by either of the two countries by writing to the other party signifying their intent to end the agreement. Its expiration will come 180 days from the date of notification.
“Having said that, there’s no more intelligence information sharing in our fight against domestic and foreign terrorist acts, no more US military aid and financing that accounts for a good 52% of what they extend to the whole Asia-Pacific region,” Lacson said.
“That may not include other intangible economic benefits and security from external threats in the West Philippine Sea, as well as humanitarian aid in times of disasters, epidemics and other crises,” he added.
Lacson and other senators earlier filed a resolution asking President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his plan to scrap the VFA while the Senate reviews it.
Duterte in January threatened to terminate the deal following the US’ move to cancel the visa of his ally, former National Police chief and now Senator Ronald Dela Rosa.
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