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Iran Strikes US Base In Iraq: World Divided, Oil Prices Surge; Everything You Need To Know

Iran's missile attack on two Iraqi bases hosting US and other coalition troops led to an increase in oil prices, a divide in the world and travel advisories.

Iran

On January 8, Iran launched a series of missiles at two Iraqi bases — Ain al-Asad and Erbil, hosting American and other coalition troops, in a state of retaliation to the US striking the IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani on the directions of Donald Trump at Baghdad's airport last week. The attack ensued as Tehran vowed of a "harsh retaliation" against the United States, over the killing of the country's second most significant figure. In response to the strike, which the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei called a 'slap on America's face', the US President in a tweet claimed that "all is well." "Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties and 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" he said. 

Iranian state media claimed that '80 American terrorists' were killed in the missiles fired to Iraq and that they already have 100 targets in its sight in case of Washington's misadventures.  However, contrary to the Irani claim, a senior Iraqi defense official notified that no American or Iraqi troops were killed in the targetted attack. There has been no confirmation over either of the claims by Pentagon yet.  In addition, the troops from Poland, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Britain, who were stationed at the military base along with the American troops confirmed that none of their servicemen were killed.  

READ| IRGC announces Iran's revenge attack against 'Great Satan' US at Qasem Soleimani's funeral

Here is everything that happened after Iran's military retaliation: 

Iran threatens the US, Israel, and allies

After designating the US military as a 'terrorist organisation' on Tuesday, IRGC spokesperson, in his announcement threatened the Western country to return its troops to "prevent further losses" and called the missile attacks as the "first step" against the US troops. The IRGC further warned US allies in the region of retaliation if aggression is initiated from their territory, thus alerting Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

The IRGC spokesperson said, "We warn the great Satan, the bloodthirsty and arrogant regime of the US, that any new wicked act or more moves and aggressions (against Iran) will bring more painful and crushing responses. We are warning all US allies who gave their bases to its terrorist army that any territory that in any way becomes the starting point of hostile and aggressive acts against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be targeted."

World reaction 

  • Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has previously attempted to douse the tensions between the two nations, yet again urged Tehran and Washington with a similar appeal. The Prime Minister of Japan is expected to visit Arab nations--Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman soon, amid the strains in the Middle East.  "The government will coordinate with the related governments to collect intelligence while we ensure the safety of Japanese citizens in the region. Japan will also urge all related nations to do their utmost diplomatic effort to improve the relation."

  • Israel 

US' ardent ally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exuded the country's support to the United States. Picking sides, Netanyahu said, "Soleimani was planning much worse. President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly, boldly and resolutely against this terrorist-in-chief. For acting against this terrorist-in-chief, he was the architect in driving Iran's campaign of carnage and terror throughout the middle-east and throughout the world."

"What I am saying today openly, and what I have said in recent days, many many leaders in the middle-east think is very important to say as I do now again that Israel stands completely beside the United States. Once again, I want to say what I have said before and I repeat it today, America has no better friend than Israel and Israel has no better friend than the United States," the Israeli PM added. Meanwhile, the US' close regional ally and Iran's arch-foe, Saudi Arabia have maintained a deafening silence on the issue. 

  • Russia

Iran's strategic ally, Russia, warned of a possible 'nuclear war' over the soaring tensions between Tehran and Washington, following the missile launched at Iraqi bases housing US troops. Russian lawmaker of Moscow's Upper House, Vladimir Dzhabarov, warned of an 'all-out war' in the region, over the persisting conflict. Opining on Iran's retaliation, the Russian leader said, "Reciprocal strikes by the US and Iran may lead to an all-out war in the region. If Washington sees that it can't achieve its goals, there's a danger of a nuclear war." The attack ensued Tehran's warning of a "harsh retaliation" against the United States. 

  • China 

China on Wednesday urged restraint from all sides, saying Beijing would play a "responsible role" in helping to defuse tensions. "It is not in the interest of any party that the situation in the Middle East worsens further," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing

  • Iraq 

Iraq on Wednesday said that Tehran had given advance notice of the missile attack on the US forces. Tehran provided information saying that the strike would be limited to where the US military was located in the country without specifying locations. 

  • Finland 

In a similar statement, the Defence Force of Finland notified that they were previously warned of the Iranian strike against bases in Iraq housing US troops. 

READ| Pakistan PM to visit Iran, Saudi Arabia to mediate Middle East dispute

Travel advisories issued

Ministry of External Affairs, India, official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar issued a travel advisory for Indian nationals in view of the prevailing situation in Iraq. The MEA has advised Indians to avoid all non-essential travel to Iraq until further notice. 

The Iranian envoy to India said that Tehran is willing to welcome any peace initiative by New Delhi for the de-escalation of tensions with the US. "India usually plays a very good role in (maintaining) peace in the world. At the same time, India belongs to this region. We welcome all initiatives from all countries, especially India as a good friend for us, to not allow escalations," the Iranian ambassador said. 

Pakistan too cautioned its citizens asking them to "exercise maximum caution while planning a visit to Iraq at this point." "Those already in Iraq are advised to remain in close contact with the Embassy of Pakistan in Baghdad," it added. The Philippines ordered its citizens to leave Iraq in the fear of the country turning into a proxy for Iran and the US. "The alert level in entire Iraq has been raised to alert level 4 calling for mandatory evacuation," the Foreign Ministry said. 

READ| US-Iran tensions: Israel, China, Russia pick sides; here's how rest of the world reacted

Oil price surge 

The impact of the tensions spiraling in the Middle Eastern region after Iran's retaliation on the US reflected sharply on the oil prices by almost 5%.  The prospect of wider regional unrest, had an effect on stock markets across Asia as well, as markets have been on the edge. 

Until May 2019, India was the second-largest buyer of crude oil, next to China, from Iran. Despite Trump's pressure, India had purchased 479,500 barrels of crude oil per day from the Middle Eastern country. Though India had previously stated that it refuses to adhere to unilateral sanctions by a country, it has hardly expressed its discontent over the US imposition of sanctions on Iran, putting new challenges to New Delhi's bilateral ties with both--Tehran and Washington.

Significance of Ain al-Asad and Erbil bases

In the past two years, US President Donald Trump and his vice president Mike Pence have made unexpected visits to the bases. Al Asad base in Western Iraq has been so vast since the US invasion that it now comprises of cinemas, swimming pools, fast food joints, and internal bus routes. The base, located in Anbar province has been a hotbed for the Islamic State between 2014-2017. 

After the US' 2003 invasion of Iraq, the base became the biggest for American troops, and was even fondly called "Camp cupcake." During Trump's visit to the base in Christmas 2018, Trump had claimed that the base was "extraordinarily expensive" and that it cost the US "billions of dollars" for its construction. Meanwhile, the base in the Erbil base, which was targetted by Iran is based in the Kurdish-populated area in Iraq, run by the Kurdish Regional Government. There are currently 5,000 US troops in Iraq, who were deployed to fight the Islamic State in 2014, however, this week, in a non-binding vote the Iraqi Parliament voted to oust the US troops. On Tuesday Donald Trump had reiterated his desire to pull troops out of Iraq, however, not immediately.  

In his election year, Trump has been working to isolate Iran both economically and politically by making big decisions, leading to Wednesday's events.  However, any further considerable escalation may lead to international consequences with the fluctuations in crude oil, putting major oil and trade routes in the  Strait of Hormuz in a vulnerable position, with economic and security concerns in the region and across the world.  The death of General Soleimani and Iraq's pro-Hezbollah Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis marks a significant watershed in the Middle Eastern policy and the Iran-US relations. In the past decade, under the leadership of Soleimani, Iran conducted proxy wars across the Middle East region in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and parts of Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah. He was instrumental in shaping Iran's influence in the region, which was threatened by arch-foes --the West, Saudi Arabia, and Israeli. 

READ| Trump orders killing of IRGC chief; Iran calls act "foolish" & threatens retaliation

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