In retaliation to the US strikes conducted on Iran’s most powerful militarty commander General Qasem Soleimani last week in which he got killed, Iran has carried out a ballistic missile attack on air bases housing US forces in Iraq. According to the reports, Iran has fired more than a dozen missiles which have struck two air bases in Erbil and Al Asad, west of Baghdad.
From US official estimates, no causalities have been reported, however, Iranian state television said at least 80 “American terrorists” were killed in attacks involving 15 missiles launched by them. After the attacks, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his speech which was broadcasted live on state television said, “Last night, a slap in the face was delivered,” to the United States. Further adding, “When it comes to confrontation, military action of this kind is not enough. What is important is that the corrupt presence of the United States should come to an end,” he said.
General Qasem Soleimani was killed by an airstrike ordered by US President Donald Trump on Friday 3 January 2020. General Qasem Soleimani was seen as the second most powerful person in Iran, only behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In response, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had declared “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack. He was seen by many in Iran as a national hero and three days of national mourning have been announced by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Why was Qasem Soleimani targeted?
Qasem Soleimani was in charge of Iran’s military in the Middle East and was operating from Baghdad in Iraq when he was killed. He had built up pro-Iranian military groups and expanded Iran’s military in the Middle East.
The attack was planned as US had been accusing Iran of being behind attacks on two oil tankers in a key shipping route in the Gulf of Oman, which according to US was “hostile behaviour”.In May 2019, four oil tankers were damaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. In absence of any evidence, however, Iran denied any involvement in the attacks on oil tankers, and said it would no longer stick to international agreements made about its nuclear ambitions.
The US Department of Defence called General Soleimani, and his troops, a “foreign terrorist organization”. They had held Soleimani’s troops responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers.
US – Iran tensions has been building up since 2017 when Donald Trump became US President
Tensions between the United States and Iran have got stronger since Donald Trump became President in 2017. Iran has been under pressure and facing severe civil unrest since Trump imposed tough rules on Iran’s oil sales, shipping, banks and more.
Some of the rules are meant to stop other nations from purchasing Iranian oil which Iran is very unhappy about. Iran has also been making threats to stop tankers getting past before but argues has not taken any action yet.
In May 2018 Trump had also pulled the US out of an important international agreement known as the Iran nuclear deal. The deal was an agreement between Iran and other major world powers – including the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
It imposed restrictions on what Iran was allowed to do with its nuclear programme. The restrictions they had placed on Iran, were crippling the country and making the cost of living really expensive for ordinary people. And since November 2018, when US pulled out of the deal, Iran’s oil exports have been affected severely.