Reports are emerging of ballistic missiles fired from inside Iran at multiple U.S. military facilities inside Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday morning, local time.
The facilities include Erbil in northern Iraq and Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq,a US official confirmed to ABC News.
It is unclear if there have been any casualties.
A Defense Department statement said assessments were still being made.
“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,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”
“We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq. The president has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said the attack was in retaliation for the death of Soleimani.
“We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted,” it said via a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.
Iran state TV says Tehran has launched “tens” of surface-to-surface missiles at Iraq’s Ain Assad air base housing US troops, over America’s killing of a top Iranian general.
State TV described it as Tehran’s revenge operation over the killing of Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani.
The use of such long range missiles from Iran against US targets in Iraq is unprecedented. Ain Assad air base is in Iraq’s western Anbar province. It was first used by American forces after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
It later saw American troops stationed there amid the fight against the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Iranian State TV said the operation’s name was Marytr Soleimani. It said the Guard’s aerospace division, which controls Iran’s missile program, launched the attack.
Footage was aired by Iranian FARS news agency appearing to show missiles fired at one of the US bases.
Earlier on Tuesday evening Donald Trump appeared to backtrack on threats to hit back at Iranian cultural targets as he said this would be apparently unlawful under international law.
Iraq’s outgoing prime minister says US troops must leave
The US has no alternative and must pull its troops out of Iraq, or else face an impending crisis, the country’s outgoing prime minister insisted earlier.
But President Donald Trump said that it is not the right time for a pullout and that it would be the worst thing that could happen to Iraq.
Mr Trump said a US pullout would allow Iran to gain a stronger foothold in Iraq.
“The people of Iraq do not want to see Iran running the country, that I can tell you,” Mr Trump said from the White House.
Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned in November amid mass anti-government protests, said Iraq wants a US troop withdrawal to avoid further escalation as tensions soar between American and Iran.
His comments came just days after a US air strike killed Iran’s top general, shortly after he arrived at Baghdad’s international airport.
A senior Iraqi commander of an Iran-backed militia was also killed in Friday’s drone strike.
“We have no exit but this, otherwise we are speeding toward confrontation,” Mr Abdul-Mahdi said in a pre-recorded televised speech following a weekly cabinet meeting.
He said the “historic decision” was necessary, “otherwise we will not be taken seriously”.
US troops are present in Iraq based on a request by the government in 2014, when vast swathes of the country were being overrun by the so-called Islamic State group.
But now that IS has been largely defeated, Mr Abdul-Mahdi said, the mission has devolved into a US-Iran proxy war.
Iraq was barely starting to recover from the devastating four-year war against IS when mass protests erupted in October against the country’s ruling elite, forcing Mr Abdul-Mahdi to resign two months later. He has not been replaced.
Referring to the fight against IS extremists, he said: “Iraq did its part to fight in the war, and I see that any harm to Iraq will be harmful to all regional states and the whole world.”
A letter from Brigadier General William H. Seely, the commander of the US taskforce in Iraq, to his Iraqi counterpart, dated Monday, had said the US-led coalition would be “repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement”.
Many media outlets initially reported that was formal notice that the US was withdrawing forces on Iraqi soil.
US defence secretary Mark Esper later clarified to reporters that there were no plans for American troops to leave Iraq.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter had been “an honest mistake”.
Mr Abdul-Mahdi responded that Iraqi authorities had thought the letter was legitimate when it was received, and were blindsided when US officials said it was sent in error.
“After four to five hours it was said that the letter was wrong,” Mr Abdul-Mahdi said. “The letter clearly indicates a withdrawal.”
“So in the future, what should we do if we get such a request? We should check if it is authentic or not? If we are late, then they will tell us that we are late,” he said.
The prime minister’s office had immediately sent the letter to the Iraq foreign minister and Iraq’s ambassador in Washington and other parties, Mr Abdul-Mahdi said.
An initial Arabic translation of the letter had contradicted the English version, he added, and another copy was then resent.
“We have to hold discussions in order to reach the best ways for a withdrawal,” he said.