World

Iran's supreme leader says missile strike a 'slap on the face' for U.S.

Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. killing of an Iranian general, raising the stakes in its conflict with Washington amid concern of a wider war in the Middle East.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaking about conflict with Iran

A man holds a picture of late Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as people celebrate in the street after Iran launched missiles at U.S.-led forces in Iraq, in Tehran. (Nazanin Tatabaee/WANA/Reuters)

Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. killing of an Iranian general, raising the stakes in its conflict with Washington amid concern of a wider war in the Middle East.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a gathering of Iranians chanting "Death to America," said the attacks were a "slap on the face" of the United States and U.S. troops should leave the region.

Tehran's foreign minister said Iran took "proportionate measures" in self-defence and did not seek to escalate the confrontation.

The next move appeared to lie with Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who ordered the drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday, gave an initial response on Twitter: "All is well!"

Casualties and damage from the missile attacks were being assessed. 

Iranian state television said Iran had fired 15 ballistic missiles from its territory at U.S. targets in its neighbour Iraq. The bases targeted were al-Asad air base and another facility in Erbil, the Pentagon said.

One source said early indications were of no U.S. casualties, while other U.S. officials declined to comment.

WATCH: The report by CBC's Margaret Evans on escalating U.S.-Iran tensions.

Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. killing of an Iranian general, raising the stakes in its conflict with Washington amid concern of a wider war in the Middle East. 5:33

Iranian television said 80 "American terrorists" had been killed, and U.S. helicopters and military equipment damaged. It provided no evidence of how it obtained that information, which directly contradicted reports from the U.S, Iraq and Canadian officials.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada's chief of defence staff, tweeted late Tuesday that all Canadian personnel are safe. 

Vance met with Defence Minister Harijit Sajjan earlier Tuesday and both were briefed by commanders on the ground in Iraq and in Ottawa.

Global Affairs Canada on Wednesday issued a travel warning advising its citizens to avoid "non-essential" travel to Iran.

The statement cited the volatile security situation, the regional threat of "terrorism" and the risk of arbitrary detention.

WATCH: Raw video of missiles fired

Raw footage purportedly showing rockets being fired at an Iraqi airbase housing U.S. troops hours after the funeral for Gen. Qassem Soleimani. 1:03

"Canadians, particularly dual Canadian-Iranian citizens, are at risk of being arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained."

Germany, Denmark, Norway and Poland said none of their troops in Iraq were hurt. The United Kingdom, which also has personnel in Iraq, condemned the Iranian action. Iraq said its forces did not suffer casualties.

More than 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq along with the other foreign forces in a coalition that has trained and backed Iraqi forces against the threat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

"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," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

In Tehran, Khamenei said in a televised speech that "military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region."

Iran has launched 'more than a dozen' missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. and coalition forces, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday. (CBC News)

"This region will not accept the presence of America," he said, renewing Tehran's long-standing demand for Washington to withdraw its forces.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the strikes "concluded" Tehran's response to the killing of Soleimani, who had been responsible for building up Iran's network of proxy armies across the Middle East and who was buried in his hometown Kerman on Monday after days of national mourning.

"We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression," he wrote on Twitter.

Iranian television reported an official in the supreme leader's office as saying the missile attacks were the "weakest" of several retaliation scenarios. It quoted another source saying Iran had lined up 100 other potential targets.

On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the attack, telling Parliament that "Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation."

'Revenge was taken'

U.S. officials said Soleimani was killed because of intelligence indicating forces under his command planned attacks on U.S. targets in the region. They have not provided evidence.

Before Soleimani was buried his body was taken on a tour of cities in Iraq and Iran, drawing huge crowds. A stampede at his funeral on Tuesday killed at least 56 people.

An hour after the Iranian missile attack, state television showed footage of the burial, where hundreds of people started chanting "God is greatest" when the strikes were announced over loudspeakers.

"His revenge was taken and now he can rest in peace," Iranian television said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi received a verbal message on Wednesday from Iran in which it told him its response to the killing of Soleimani was either imminent or under way. (Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi received a verbal message from Iran in which it told him its response to the killing of Soleimani was either imminent or underway, his spokesperson said in a statement.

"Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, we received a verbal message from the Islamic Republic of Iran that the Iranian response to the assassination of the martyr Qassem Soleimani had started or was about to start." 

Tehran told Abdul Mahdi it would only target locations where U.S. forces were present but did not specify the locations, his spokesman said.

Abdul Mahdi simultaneously received a call from the U.S. while missiles were falling on the American wing of the Ain al-Assad air base and the Harir air base in Erbil, the spokesperson said.

Friction between Iran and the U.S. rose after Trump withdrew in 2018 from a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, approved by his predecessor Barack Obama, and reimposed sanctions on Tehran slashing its vital oil exports.

Khamenei, in his speech on Wednesday, ruled out any resumption of talks with Washington on the 2015 deal.

Trump's U.S. political rivals have challenged his decision to order Soleimani's killing and questioned its timing in a U.S. election year.

Trump administration to brief Congress 

In separate developments, Trump administration officials will brief the U.S. Congress on Wednesday on the killing of Soleimani, as Democrats push for legislation to rein in the president's ability to launch a war.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley and CIA director Gina Haspel will address the House of Representatives behind closed doors and the Senate in the afternoon.

Trump broke precedent by failing to inform congressional leaders before ordering last week's drone strike. He angered some lawmakers, particularly Democrats, by making classified his formal report to Congress about the strike as he sent more troops to the Middle East.

U.S. President Donald Trump gave an initial response to the military strikes on two American bases in Iraq on Tuesday, saying on Twitter that 'All is well!.' (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Constitution grants Congress, not the president, the right to declare war. Some lawmakers have been trying for years to wrest back that authority from the White House.

The Democratic-controlled House may pass legislation this week that would require the removal of U.S. forces from hostilities with Iran within 30 days, unless Congress declares war or authorizes the use of military force.

A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate, which is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans who rarely oppose his initiatives, dimming its prospects of passage.

Esper told journalists on Tuesday that Soleimani was planning an attack that threatened U.S. interests, and that was to be executed within days rather than weeks.

Lawmakers have demanded more information, including public testimony, about any threat from Iran and the military's response. In a letter released on Wednesday, top Senate Democrats asked Esper and Milley for regular briefings and documents about any troop deployments.

On Tuesday, the Democratic-led House foreign affairs committee called on Pompeo to testify about Iran in public next week.

With files from CBC News

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.