On Jan. 3, an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. The airstrike came in the midst of unrest in Baghdad — with increasing protests at the U.S. Embassy and missile attacks on American-populated bases.
A rapid-deployment unit of 750 soldiers from Fort Bragg was also sent to the region, assumedly to help quell the unrest. As we reported earlier in January, Iraq hosts around 5,000 American soldiers, with 60,000 in the Middle East as a whole. According to Jan. 15 data from Military.com, 9,000 American ground troops have been deployed since Dec. 31.
Here’s an update on what’s happened since Soleimani’s death.
Iran Quickly Retaliated Against the US.
Soleimani’s funeral started on Jan. 4 and lasted for three days, spanning multiple cities and attracting millions of people. It was described as “a sea of people,” by CNN. There were reported chants of “Death to the USA” and “Death to Trump” among the crowds of mourners.
Despite Trump’s warning that any retaliation would be met with force — specifically, threatening to bomb Iranian cultural sites — Iran sought revenge for Soleimani’s death on Jan. 7.
This revenge came in the form of 15 ballistic missiles launched at two U.S. bases in Iraq. And Iran wasn’t afraid to take responsibility; after the attack, the head of their national security council tweeted the Iranian flag — mimicking Trump’s tweet of the American flag after the strike on Soleimani.
Fortunately, no casualties came from the attack. The bases were already on lockdown in preparation, and the missiles — which struck several minutes apart and sent shockwaves through the air — didn’t cause any serious harm. Several dozen soldiers were treated for concussions.
Interestingly, the American soldiers were on lockdown because Iranian officials had given them warning of the attack a full six hours ahead of it.
After the missile attack was reported, Trump tweeted, “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!”
Iran has also announced that they will no longer abide by the 2015 nuclear deal that the U.S. withdrew from in 2018. This could lead to consequences from the other countries involved, including the UK, Russia, France, and China.
Iran Shot Down a Ukranian Passenger Plane.
Just hours after launching missiles at American-populated bases, Iran shot down a Ukranian passenger plane with 176 people on board. The plane was taking off from Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, destined for Kyiv, Ukraine. It crashed five minutes later, killing all 176 passengers.
The plane was downed by Iranian missiles, in a move that was later described as “human error.” Among those killed were 11 Ukranians, 82 Iranians, and 57 Canadians.
A statement, released after an internal investigation by Iranian armed forces, reads as follows:
“After the attacks the flights of U.S. planes increased in the region and reports came in from strategic centers and many targets were visible in the radar. In this sensitive moment the Ukrainian plane while approaching an IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) base was shot down after the plane’s unexpected and sharp turn, leading to the martyrdom of several of our fellow citizens and foreign nationals.”
It also stated that the people responsible would face legal consequences, and the armed forces would undergo major reform to ensure this wouldn’t happen in the future. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted his condolences — calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”
Ukranian International Airlines reported that there was no deviation from the plane’s intended course, and no warning of the tragedy that was about to take place.
US Considers Sending More Missile-Defense Systems.
In the wake of the missile attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, Americans are wondering: What will Trump do next? Originally, he’d threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites, though he backed off when he was criticized for this breach of international military law.
Iran has stated that it is willing to stand down if there is no U.S. retaliation for their missile attack.
Both Fox News and Military.com report that the Army may be sending more missile-defense systems to the Middle East to protect against future attacks from Iran.
“They are a very capable enemy; they have capabilities that can strike and hit Americans, so we are looking at additional capabilities that we could send to the region,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said to defense reporters.
“It could be a variety of enablers like missile defense, so we are looking at that.”
No further information is known about these “capabilities.”
Many people view Iran’s warning before the missile attack, and also the fact that no one died, as a sign that Iran wants to avoid conflict with the U.S. — and that the missile attack was mere posturing after the death of their general. In any case, hopefully there will be a peaceful resolution soon, and deployed soldiers can return home to their families at Ft. Bragg.