“All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “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.”
His response did not indicate whether he would order a US response to the Iranian attack, something that the Tehran regime already has warned would lead to a much wider conflict and mass escalation.
“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched,” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
PREVIOUSLY, 4:58 PM PT: As news networks jumped on reports that Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. military facilities in Iraq in a retaliatory strike, they quickly framed the new development as a potential prelude to a wider conflict or even war.
On CNN, Erin Burnett’s called it a “game changer,” after Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr said that it “means a significant uptick in what the Iranians have been doing.” Up to now, Starr pointed out, Iran’s attacks had been via proxy groups within Iraq, not a direct missile launch from within its own borders.
“Now it is hard to see how President Trump would not respond to this,” Starr said.
On Fox News, national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin said, “The significance is the Iranians said what they said they were going to do,” referring to the Tehran regime’s vow of retaliation for the U.S.’ targeted killing last week of Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military leader.
“The question is what comes next,” Griffin said.
On MSNBC, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) told Chris Matthews said that the lingering question is whether the Iran strikes “present an escalatory spiral.” Later during All In with Chris Hayes, contributor Steve Schmidt said, “We’ve entered into a hot war with Iran.” The former GOP strategist then talked about how “this could very quickly become a wider regional war,” and he added: “We stand at the most dangerous moment in the Middle East that we have lived through in our lifetimes, and there’s been plenty of dangerous moments.”
The coverage scrambled some of the plans for Tuesday evening, and news networks planned live coverage throughout the night and into the early morning hours. CBS News had planned an exclusive interview with Vice President Mike Pence, but because of the events in the Middle East, it had to be postponed, CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell told viewers. The missile attacks were covered as breaking news during the evening broadcast, and later on a special report at 7 p.m. ET.
CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams, reporting from Baghdad, said that the al-Assad air base was perhaps targeted because of its size and American presence. “For all of those reasons, it was probably an attractive target for the Iranians,” she said. Earlier in the day, correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, reporting from Tehran, interviewed Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and he warned that the retaliation would be against “legitimate targets” on a timeline “as we choose.”
NBC News’ Lester Holt also anchored a special report at 7 p.m. ET, running for eight minutes. “Not sure if this is over, if this is over, if this is an initial assault, if this was Iran testing the waters, but it’s certainly got a lot of people’s attention here,” correspondent Richard Engel reported from Iraq.
ABC News devoted all of World News Tonight with David Muir to the breaking news from Iran, and also did a full live edition of the newscast for the west coast. It planned a special edition of Nightline, anchored by Byron Pitts.
The Pentagon said that Iran launched the missiles at about 5:30 p.m. ET. Initial reports of the missile strike came within the hour after that.
“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at al-Assad and Irbil” bases, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.
President Donald Trump has vowed to respond to any Iran retaliatory strike, writing on Twitter on Saturday, “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, “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.”
Networks reported that Trump may deliver a statement from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, but the White House later said that would not be happening.
Later in the evening, on Fox News’ Hannity, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that he had just spoken to Trump and warned Iran, “You continue this crap, you are going to wake up one day out of the oil business.”
Despite the tough rhetoric that followed the airstrikes, though, some media figures saw hopeful signs of restraint. Geraldo Rivera wrote on Twitter, “Take apparent absence of US casualties as important intentional gesture by Iran. @realdonaldtrump recognize this as step in right direction. They could’ve targeted barracks, etc. Seize initiative to counsel further restraint. No escalation. Don’t make mistakes you once criticized.”
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