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Friday February 21st, 2020 10:51AM

The Latest: Trump to address the US shortly on Iran strikes

By The Associated Press
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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The latest on U.S.-Iran tensions after the U.S. airstrike that killed Iran's top general (all times local):

6:40 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump plans to address the nation at 11 a.m. local time Wednesday (1600 GMT).

Trump faces one of the greatest tests of his presidency now that Iran has launched ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. It was Iran's most brazen assault on America since the 1979 seizing of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Iran's missile strikes were in retaliation for last week's American drone strike that killed Iran's top general. Trump huddled with his national security advisers to weigh a response.

Top Senate Democrats are citing “deep concern” about the lack of information coming from the Trump administration about the Iran operation.

6:25 p.m.

Pakistan's prime minister has stressed the need to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.

In a Twitter post, Imran Khan added that he is sending his foreign minister to Iran, Saudi Arabia and United States to meet with counterparts. Regional tensions remain high after Iran fired missiles at two bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces in retaliation for the U.S. killing of its top military commander.

During a meeting Wednesday with Oman's minister for religious affairs, the Pakistani leader reiterated that his country will not be part of any conflict in the region.

Also Wednesday, Pakistan’s military said the U.S. defense secretary has discussed the Middle East situation with Pakistan's army chief, saying Washington does not want to seek a conflict but will respond forcefully if necessary.

5:45 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned what he called Iran’s “reckless and dangerous” missile attacks on bases in Iraq used by U.S. troops, and he called for “urgent de-escalation" by Tehran and Washington.

Johnson also said Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, “had the blood of British troops on his hands.”

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has suggested the U.S. may have broken international law by killing Soleimani.

Johnson told British lawmakers on Wednesday that “the strict issue of legality is not for the U.K. to determine since it was not our operation. But I think most reasonable people would accept that the United States has the right to protect its bases and its personnel."

The Trump administration alleges that Soleimani had been plotting new attacks just before he was killed.

5:30 p.m.

Iraq's presidency has condemned Iranian missile strikes on two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. troops, reiterating its rejection of breaches of Iraq's sovereignty.

Barham Saleh's office also said in a statement that the fate of U.S. troops in Iraq is an internal matter based on legal agreements to combat the Islamic State group.

The statement adds that Iraq "has previously declared its refusal to be a starting point for aggression against any country, and also refuses to be a source of threat to any of its neighbors."

The Iraqi prime minister has publicly said U.S. troops must leave after a drone strike killed Iran's top military commander in Baghdad, and parliament has passed a non-binding resolution pushing for withdrawal.

5:10 p.m.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has condemned Iran's missile strike against U.S. forces in Iraq, while a NATO official says there were no casualties among the military alliance’s personnel in the country.

The Iraqi mission consists of several hundred staff from allied nations and non-NATO countries.

In a message to The Associated Press, the NATO official who was not authorized to speak publicly said they were "keeping the situation under close review.”

Meanwhile, in a message posted on Twitter, Stoltenberg urged Iran to refrain from further violence.

NATO last week said it had suspended a training mission for Iraqi soldiers after the U.S. killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Stoltenberg said allies remain committed to the training mission in Iraq.

4:50 p.m.

An official says the Cyprus government has approved a U.S. request to temporarily deploy a "rapid reaction" team to help evacuate personnel from U.S. diplomatic missions in nearby countries if needed.

Cyprus government spokesman Kyriakos Koushios said Wednesday the team also will be tasked with evacuating U.S. civilians from the region in the event of an emergency. The development comes after Iran fired more than 20 missiles overnight at bases in Iraq used by U.S. troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran's top military commander.

Koushios said the east Mediterranean island nation granted permission as part of its long-standing policy to offer assistance to missions of a humanitarian nature following requests from non-European Union member countries.

He said Cyprus has excellent relations with eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern nations.

4:10 p.m.

Turkey’s foreign minister will visit Iraq on Thursday as part of diplomatic efforts to “alleviate the escalated tension" in the region, a ministry statement said.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also spoke with his Iranian counterpart Wednesday after Iran fired more than 20 missiles overnight at bases in Iraq used by U.S. troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran's top military commander last week in Baghdad.

Turkey has called for calm and expressed concern about regional security after the U.S. drone strike. Turkey shares a border with Iran and Iraq and is engaged militarily in northern Iraq against Kurdish militants.

3:50 p.m.

Slovenia’s defense ministry says its six soldiers stationed in northern Iraq with a German-led training mission will be evacuated after their base came under Iran’s missile attack in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran's top general.

The Slovenian ministry said Wednesday the soldiers were unhurt in the attack near Irbil as they were in the base's shelter during the strike.

The ministry said the evacuation will be conducted “in cooperation with the German partners.” It did not say where the soldiers will go.

3:30 p.m.

The Syrian government is expressing full solidarity with Iran, saying Tehran has the right to defend itself "in the face of American threats and attacks."

The foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Syria holds the “American regime responsible for all the repercussions due to its reckless policy and arrogant mentality.”

The statement came after Iran fired more than 20 missiles overnight at bases in Iraq used by U.S. troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran's top military commander last week in Baghdad.

Syria is Iran's strongest ally in the Arab world, and Tehran sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters to join President Bashar Assad's forces in the country's civil war.

3:10 p.m.

One analyst says Iran's missile strike against U.S. forces in Iraq was “the smallest attack that Iran could carry out while at the same time being able to say they got revenge."

Peter Viggo Jakobsen, an associate professor with the Royal Danish Defense College, added Wednesday that Iran has "done all that is possible to avoid American casualties. If what we hear is correct, they have warned the Americans in advance."

He told Denmark’s TV2 channel the Iranians are doing all they can to avoid an American military response as harsh as President Donald Trump has promised.

"I would be deeply surprised if the Americans choose to respond militarily again,” he said.

2:30 p.m.

Italy has condemned Iran's missile strikes against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and repeated its call for de-escalation of tensions.

Italy has some 900 troops in Iraq, based in Baghdad and Irbil, that are involved in training Iraqi troops and in fighting the Islamic State group.

There has been no report from any member of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq about casualties among their forces.

After a U.S. drone strike killed Iran's top general last week, Italian news reports said Italy had transferred some troops from a Baghdad base to a more secure location.

Italy's Foreign Ministry again urged European allies to work for dialogue, according to a statement.

2:15 p.m.

The Iraqi prime ministry says Iran notified Iraq shortly after midnight that its response to the killing of its top military commander had begun, and that retaliation would be limited to locations where the U.S. military is present.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s office said in a statement Wednesday that Iraq was simultaneously informed by the Americans that military bases in Ain al-Asad and Irbil were under missile attack.

The office says it has received no reports of casualties on the Iraqi side and has not been officially notified of any losses among the U.S.-led coalition.

“Iraq refuses any violation of its sovereignty and any attacks on its territory,” the statement said.

It added that Iraq is doing everything in its power to contain the situation to avoid a “devastating all-out war."

2:05 p.m.

Poland's Foreign Ministry says its ambassador to Iraq, Beata Peksa, has been evacuated to Poland for security reasons amid the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The evacuation was at Britain's request because Poland's diplomatic mission is located in the British Embassy.

According to Poland's Foreign Ministry only the ambassador was evacuated while its embassy in Baghdad continues its work.

Poland is one of several European countries that has said their troops in Iraq were not harmed in the Iranian missile strike overnight that targeted two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops.

1:55 p.m.

Chinese media reports say state oil company China National Petroleum Corporation has evacuated about 20 employees from the West Qurna-1 oil field in Iraq as a result of the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

No details were given, and company spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment.

The news followed the Iranian missile strike that targeted two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. The attack was in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed Iran's top commander last week near the Baghdad airport.

1:45 p.m.

The U.S. Embassy in Jordan has issued a security warning to American government personnel to avoid “non-essential” movements following the Iranian missile strike that targeted two military bases in neighboring Iraq housing U.S. troops.

In a tweet Wednesday, the embassy says that “out of an abundance of caution” American children should also be kept home from school. The embassy in Amman remains open.

1:30 p.m.

Anti-government protesters in Iraq have set fires and closed streets near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square during a demonstration against the Iranian missile strike that targeted two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops.

The Iranian attack was in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed top Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week near the Baghdad airport.

About 100 protesters took part in Wednesday morning’s demonstration near Tahrir, the epicenter of Iraq’s protest movement. The protesters carrying Iraqi flags shouted “Iran out, out!” before they were dispersed by security forces.

The protesters who rose up against their country’s ruling elite in October, accusing them of corruption, have also been revolting against neighboring Iran’s military and political involvement.

1:20 p.m.

Finland's defense forces say they received advance warning of the Iranian missile strike against bases in Iraq used by U.S. troops.

The defense forces gave no details Wednesday, Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat reported.

They added that Finnish troops at the base in Irbil that was targeted were were protected in a bomb shelter and were not hurt. Irbil is the capital of Iraq's self-governing Kurdish region.

12:55 p.m.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has condemned the Iranian missile strike against bases hosting coalition forces in Iraq and urged Iran to refrain from further military action.

The Ministry of Defense said Wednesday there were no British casualties in the attack launched in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iran's top Revolutionary Guard commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad last week.

U.S. officials have said there are no immediate reports of U.S. casualties.

"We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation,'' Raab said. “A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh (the Islamic State group) and other terrorist groups.” Coalition forces are in Iraq to train local forces to fight the extremists.

Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the defense committee during the previous Parliament, told the BBC it would be "extremely welcome" if Iran's action marked the end of tensions and both sides could “get back to talking."

12:05 p.m.

China’s foreign ministry is expressing concern about the spike in tensions in the Middle East and says it hopes matters can swiftly “cool off.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Wednesday that Beijing has called for restraint by all sides and is in close consultation with the governments involved, including at the United Nations and through China's embassy in Baghdad.

He spoke after the Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces but did not address it directly.

Geng also accused the U.S. of abusing the rights of people in the region through its military actions.

11:50 a.m.

Germany has condemned the Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Wednesday the government "rejects this aggression in the sharpest possible terms."

She told German public broadcaster ARD that "it's now particularly up to the Iranians not to engage in further escalation.'

None of the German troops stationed in Iraq were injured.

It joined several European countries in saying their troops in Iraq were not harmed, including France, Poland, Denmark and Finland.

11:35 a.m.

At least one missile from the Iranian strike against U.S. forces in Iraq on Wednesday landed in a field near Bardarash, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Irbil, the capital of Iraq's self-governing Kurdish region.

An Iraqi Kurdish channel, Rudaw TV, showed video of police inspecting the impact site and removing shrapnel.

No casualties were reported but residents said the earth shook upon impact, and one man was seen cleaning up slight damage to his house on a nearby street.

The Kurdish region hosts American military forces at its main airport just outside Irbil.

11:15 a.m.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an address to the nation says "we slapped them (Americans) on the face last night" with a missile strike “but military action is not enough.”

He spoke hours after the strike at military bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces. The strike was in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran's top military commander in Baghdad.

Khamenei added that the “corrupt presence of the U.S. in the region should come to an end," saying it has caused war, division, and destruction.

Iran's supreme leader also invoked the virtues of the slain commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying he was a "great, brave warrior" and “dear friend to us.” Huge crowds in Iran have mourned Soleimani's death last week in the airstrike in Baghdad.

10:45 a.m.

A Russian lawmaker warns that a conflict between the U.S. and Iran might lead to a nuclear war.

The comments by Vladimir Dzhabarov, lawmaker with Russia’s upper house of parliament, on Wednesday followed an Iranian missile strike at military bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces. The strike was in retaliation for the U.S. killing Iran's top military commander in Baghdad.

“Reciprocal strikes by the U.S. and Iran may lead to an all-out war in the region,” Dzhabarov said. “If Washington sees that it can’t achieve its goals, there’s a danger of a nuclear war.”

The Russian lawmaker said the U.N. Security Council should get involved to prevent further escalation in the Middle East.

Iraq's military says it had no troop casualties in the Iranian strike, and President Donald Trump tweeted that“All is well!” as casualty and damage assessments are ongoing.

10:30 a.m.

The Iraqi military says there are no casualties among its troops as a result of an Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces.

The military said in a statement carried by the state news agency Wednesday that the attack lasted half an hour, starting at 1:45 a.m. local time.

The statement said 22 missiles were fired. Seventeen missiles hit al-Asad air base, including two that did not explode in the Hitan area west of the town of Hit. Five other missiles hit the northern region of Irbil.

9 a.m.

The energy minister of the United Arab Emirates says he sees no immediate shortages in oil supplies, but that OPEC will be called in if there is an issue.

“The situation is not currently a war situation,” Suhail Al-Mazrouei told reporters Wednesday. “We are all hoping for deescalation. I think wisdom will prevail despite the tension.”

He spoke after an Iranian missile strike at military bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces. The strike was in retaliation for the U.S. killing an Iranian general in Baghdad.

He said even in past times of war, the flow of oil has been maintained.

“So let’s not exaggerate what’s happening. There is no risk that we have seen to the Strait of Hormuz or the movement of oil yet,” Al-Mazrouei said, referring to the narrow waterway between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran through which 20% of the world’s oil passes through.

He spoke reporters in Abu Dhabi at the Gulf Intelligence’s UAE Energy Forum.

Brent crude oil has jumped to around $70 a barrel amid heightened concerns over tensions between Iran and the United States.

___

7:40 a.m.

Japan says it will urge governments to do their utmost to help ease tensions following an Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by U.S. forces.

The strike came in retaliation for the killing of an Iranian general.

Japanese Chief Cabinet spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that his “government will coordinate with the related governments to collect intelligence while we ensure the safety of Japanese citizens in the region."

He added: “Japan will also urge all related nations to do their utmost diplomatic effort to improve the relations."

He said Japan remained on track to soon deploy a warship to the Gulf to help safeguard Japanese vessels and oil tankers transiting the area.

___

7:15 a.m.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says all of his country's troops and diplomatic staff in Iraq are safe after Iran's firing of missiles at two military bases there.

Around 300 Australian defense personnel are stationed in Iraq.

Morrison said he spoke with President Donald Trump about the situation between the U.S. and Iran on Tuesday during a call about the wildfires raging in Australia.

Sepaking to reporters Wednesday, Morrison said in reference to the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani: “The United States have taken the action that they have to address what has been intelligence that they say that they received, which was putting their interests at risks and under threat."

___

6:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says “All is well!” after more than a dozen Iranian missiles were fired at two bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.

Trump tweets that casualty and damage assessments are ongoing but adds, “So far, so good!”

He says he will be making a statement on the strikes Wednesday morning.

Iranian state TV says the missile strikes were retaliation for the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose death last week in an American drone strike near Baghdad prompted angry calls to avenge his slaying.

__

6:05 a.m.

Iran’s foreign minister is calling Tuesday night's ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops “proportionate measures in self-defense.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has also tweeted, “’We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

His tweet follows the missile attack in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike last week in Baghdad.

__

6 a.m.

Iran has buried a top Revolutionary Guard general slain by U.S. airstrike in Baghdad after a stampede at his funeral killed 56 and Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing American troops in response.

Officials lowered the shroud-wrapped remains of Qassem Soleimani into the ground in the southeastern city of Kerman just before 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Mourners at the grave site wailed.

Soleimani’s death in the airstrikes has drastically raised tensions between Tehran and Washington. Iran launched a ballistic missile attack just hours earlier on two Iraqi bases housing American troops.

__

5:55 a.m.

A U.S. official says there were very few, if any, casualties from Tuesday night's Iranian missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of a Pentagon briefing.

The official says 15 missiles were fired. Ten struck the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province. One struck a base in Irbil in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region. Four missiles failed to hit their targets.

The official says the bases are still being searched for casualties.

Iranian state TV says the missile strikes were retaliation for the U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose death last week — in an American drone strike near Baghdad prompted angry calls to avenge his slaying.

— Lolita C. Baldor

__

5:10 a.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration is barring U.S. pilots and carriers from flying in areas of Iraqi, Iranian and some Persian Gulf airspace.

The agency is warning of the “potential for miscalculation or mis-identification" for civilian aircraft amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The emergency flight restrictions follow ballistic missile strikes Tuesday on two Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops.

Such restrictions are often precautionary in nature to prevent civilian aircraft from being confused for ones engaged in armed conflict. The FAA says the restrictions are being issued due to “heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations.”

__

4:30 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence has briefed top Democrats in Congress on the Iranian strikes on installations in Iraq holding U.S. forces.

Aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both confirmed the lawmakers spoke with the vice president by telephone Tuesday.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, says the New York Democrat is closely monitoring the situation and is praying for the safety of service members and other personnel.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted that the speaker returned a call from the vice president moments after presiding over the House.

Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the vice president, says Pence has been in continuous contact with national security officials and made calls to congressional leadership at President Donald Trump's direction.

__

3:45 a.m.

The Pentagon is confirming that Iran has launched “more than a dozen ballistic missiles" at two targets hosting against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq.

Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman says “It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran."

He says the attacks “targeted at least two Iraqi military bases" at Ain Assad and Irbil.

Hoffman says the U.S. is “working on initial battle damage assessments."

Iranian state TV says the attack was in revenge for the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose funeral Tuesday prompted angry calls to avenge his death.

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