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Iran's rulers wanted revenge so badly - they struck back the moment mourning for Soleimani ended

President Donald Trump speaks to US troops at the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq on Boxing Day. Credit: AP

Such was the people’s clamour for revenge, Iran’s rulers felt they had to strike back the moment the three-day official mourning period for Qassem Soleimani expired.

The ballistic missiles were fired at 1.20am, the same time that Soleimani was killed in a drone strike here in Baghdad last Friday.

The salvo was unleashed when US forces would have been at their most ready. All their bases in Iraq have state of the art defences, including bunkers.

Most of the missiles were aimed at the huge al-Asad base way out in the desert of Anbar Province.

It’s an isolated place, meaning the chances of collateral civilian casualties were virtually nil. The Iranians may also have chosen it because President Trump visited the place on Boxing Day 2018.

Several missiles were also fired at a US base in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. Some appear to have been wildly inaccurate.

Soon after the strikes – at a time they couldn’t possibly have known anything about casualties - Iranian state media reported that 80 Americans had been killed. Pure propaganda.

President Trump tweeted ‘so far so good,” and “all is well.”

He will downplay what has happened, not least because he probably doesn’t want to have to retaliate.

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But lest the Iranians feel the results of the strike are too inconsequential, Trump’s loyal mouthpiece, Sen Lindsay Graham has been talking things up, proclaiming the Iranian attack “an act of war.”

So now the ball’s in Mr Trump’s court. The impetus for the assassination of Soleimani appears to have been the killing of an American contractor in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk by an Iranian-backed militia on December 27.

In the run-up to last night Mr Trump warned that if Iran killed more Americans he would hit back.

If none has in fact been killed he probably won’t feel compelled to act and this particular flare-up will be over.

The Iranians certainly hope it is. The country’s foreign minister very pointedly put in the word “concluded” when he tweeted an explanation of the missile strike.