Iran’s Leader: Missile Attacks ‘Not Sufficient’ Retaliation for Killing of Soleimani

January 8, 2020 Updated: January 8, 2020
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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that the missile strikes launched by his country against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq were “not sufficient” retaliation in the wake of the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. airstrike.

Addressing a gathering of Iranians in Tehran chanting “death to America” on Jan. 8, Khamenei said the attacks late Tuesday were a “slap in the face” to the United States and U.S. troops should leave the region.

“Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region,” he said, a demand Iranian leaders have repeatedly made.

In the televised speech, Khamenei, the country’s spiritual and political leader, ruled out any resumption of talks with Washington on the 2015 nuclear deal that was negotiated by President Barack Obama’s administration but not ratified by Congress. Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.

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A man holds a picture of late Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, as people celebrate in the street after Iran launched missiles at U.S.-led forces in Iraq, in Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 8, 2020. (Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters)
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Residents look at a crater caused by a missile launched by Iran on U.S.-led coalition forces on the outskirts of Duhok, Iraq, on Jan. 8, 2020. (Ari Jalal/Reuters)

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who was denied a visa this week by the United States, claimed to reporters: “We did not start this process of escalation. The United States waged an economic war against Iran, the United States has to come to its senses. The presence of Iranian people in the streets of many cities, unprecedented in history, a sea of humanity, has to bring the United States to its senses.”

“We’ve said very clearly that if the United States takes any further action, Iran will respond accordingly and we will respond in a very harsh way, but proportionally,” he added. “They should stop listening to clowns. They should base their policy based on realities.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during his weekly cabinet meeting, which was broadcast on state television: “They cut the hand off our dear Soleimani—and you saw his dear hand next to his body in pictures and videos. As revenge we will cut off the U.S.’s feet from this region.”

The Pentagon said in a statement that more than a dozen missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel.

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Iraqi students march during ongoing anti-government demonstrations in the southern city of Basra on Jan. 8, 2020. (Hussein Faleh/AFP via Getty Images)
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A burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early on Jan. 2, 2020. (Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office, via AP)

“We are working on initial battle damage assessments,” a Pentagon spokesman said. No casualty figures have been confirmed publicly as of Wednesday morning.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham’s office said that President Donald Trump’s administration was “aware of the reports of attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq.”

“The president has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” she said.

Trump later took to Twitter to respond to the missile strikes: “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! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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