Iran's Supreme Leader Demands US Withdrawal from Iraq and Region

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to residents of the city of Qom.
In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to a group of residents of the city of Qom, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Wednesday that Tuesday's missile attacks on American targets in Iraq were the opening stage of a campaign to drive the U.S. from the region.

"For the time being, the Americans have been given a slap," but "military moves like this are not enough," Khameini said in an address in Tehran on Wednesday morning, according to official Iranian media accounts.

"The Americans' corruption-stirring presence should come to an end" in Iraq and the entire Mideast, he added.

By midmorning, the Pentagon had yet to give an official bomb damage assessment of the attacks, which a defense official said consisted of a total of 15 ballistic missiles fired from Iran at Al Asad and Erbil. Four of the missiles failed in flight, 10 hit Al Asad and one hit Erbil, according to the official.

Related: A Dozen Missiles Target US Troops at Al Asad, Erbil in Iran Retaliatory Strike

However, President Donald Trump's cryptic tweet that "All is well" and "so far, so good," along with guarded comments by defense officials late Tuesday night, indicated that there may have been no casualties to U.S. personnel.

By contrast, the initial Iranian accounts of the missile attacks portrayed them as the exacting and lethal retribution for the killing last Thursday of Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani that had been expected by the Iranian people.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps described scenes of widespread destruction at Al Asad and Erbil, scores of U.S. troops killed and helicopters scrambling to carry off the wounded.

"Early estimates indicate heavy U.S. casualties in Iran's missile attack," a source in the IRGC Intelligence Department said, according to Iran's Fars news agency. The source said at least 80 U.S. Army personnel had been killed and another 200 wounded.

In a statement, the IRGC also warned that the U.S. "will face a more painful and crushing response" for any retaliation to the missile attacks.

However, Iraq's state media said that Iraq's military, which shares the Al Asad base with the U.S., reported no casualties to its personnel.

Last week, following the strike at Baghdad's International Airport that killed Soleimani, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve suspended the campaign of U.S. troops in Iraq against the remnants of the Islamic State and ordered them to focus on force protection against an expected Iranian retaliatory attack.

Defense officials Tuesday night also cited the force protection measures while declining to comment on the possibility of U.S. casualties.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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