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Tug-of-war: Two powers on the brink of conflict as face-off worsens

Iran fires missiles on US bases in Iraq

Trump downplays Iran strife

Kabul scrambles to maintain neutrality

AT News

KABUL: Iran has fired more than a dozen rockets at two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops in retaliation for the US strike that killed a top Iranian general last week. Around 20 ballistic missiles targeted the Al Asad and Erbil military bases, the Pentagon said, and U.S. officials were assessing the damage. 

The attack came amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran following the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani. Iran had pledged severe retaliation.  Some Iranian media reported that at least 80 Americans were killed and 200 others wounded in the rockets attack.

It was still unclear whether there were any casualties, but in a tweet US President Trump said; “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.”

Iran president Hassan Rouhani vowed to kick out all the American troops from the region. “General Soleimani fought heroically against ISIS, Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al. If it weren’t for his war on terror, European capitals would be in great danger now. Our final answer to his assassination will be to kick all US forces out of the region,” Rouhani tweeted.

However, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he tweeted.

All parties should respect the sovereignty of Iraq and not endanger its people, says Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, calling on the United States and Iran to exercise self-restraint.

Abdul Mahdi said that Iraq “rejects any violation of its sovereignty and aggression on its lands, and the government continues its efforts to prevent escalation and that all parties should respect the sovereignty of Iraq and not endanger its people,” a statement by his office said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Tuesday’s night’s rocket strikes on military bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq were a “slap in the face” and not sufficient retaliation for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Khamenei also reiterated his government’s longstanding demand that Washington withdraw its forces from the Middle East.

On Friday, a U.S. drone attacked a convoy at Baghdad International Airport, killing Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

Escalation of tensions in Middle East serves no one’s interest, said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Geng Shuang. “Peace and stability is vital to whole world. China will maintain close communication with all parties and play a responsible role to cool off tensions as soon as possible,” he said.

Afghanistan will not take sides in the escalating confrontation between neighboring Iran and the strategic partner, the United States.

The government of Afghanistan has assured the government of Iran that Afghan soil will never be used against any country. President Ashraf Ghani reiterated the standpoint in calls with Iranian President and US security officials.

Furthermore, the escalation between the United States and Iran now has sparked deep concerns about prospects for the peace process in Afghanistan, with officials and experts warning that Iran could collaborate with the Taliban to thwart American efforts in the country.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of attempting to build proxy networks in Afghanistan. “Iran has refused to join the regional and international consensus for peace, and is, in fact, actively working to undermine the peace process by continuing its long global effort to support militant groups there,” Pompeo said during a press conference.

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