BAGHDAD: Barely a few hours after US President Donald Trump gave enough hints of veering away from an imminent war with Iran, two rockets crashed late Wednesday into the Iraqi capital's Green Zone, the high-security enclave where foreign embassies including the US mission are based.
AFP reported that the attack came nearly 24 hours after Tehran launched ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing American and other coalition forces, which did not cause casualties.
The strikes were in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassim Suleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last week.
Muhandis had been the deputy head of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a web of armed groups incorporated into the Iraqi state but which also have close ties to Tehran.
The United States had accused Hashed groups of being behind a string of rocket attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad and bases hosting American troops across the country.
On Wednesday, the Hashed's hardline factions vowed they, too, would take revenge for the US raid.
Paramilitary chief Qais al-Khazali -- blacklisted as a "terrorist" by the US -- said Iraq's response to the US "will be no less than the size of the Iranian response."
Tehran had sought to veer away from war with US saying they had “concluded proportionate measures” against the US after launching a wave of missile attacks against American bases in Iraq and affirming it does not seek escalation. The US President in turn indicated Iran’s showy offensive was ineffective by tweeting "All is well!"
In a short address on Wednesday on fracas with Iran, Trump claimed that “Iran appears to be standing down,” and said Americans should be grateful and relieved that no lives were lost in Iran’s missile attack on the bases, mainly because on account of “an early warning system that worked very well.”
The President’s account appeared to gel with expert opinion that suggested Iran pulled its punches during the missile attack to avoid escalation while at the same time appeasing its restive domestic constituency, said a Times of India report.
The report said that the "fierce offensive" that Iran promised in retaliation to the American assassination of its top general Qassim Suleimani involved 22 missiles fired at two bases in Iraq that according to US officials caused some structural damage and no human casualties.
Some analysts suggested it was a deliberately pared down attack aimed at public posturing and defusing domestic anger in Iran, while others felt it was a decoy for a more serious covert attack to follow.
President Trump, who had promised disproportionate response should Iran retaliate, was also circumspect, saying the US will “continue to evaluate options” which includes imposing additional, unspecified sanctions, the TOI report said.
Image Credit: Hindustan Times