While Americans were expecting retaliation, Iran has upped the ante by firing ballistic missiles on Iraqi air bases, which house US troops.
The United States will be looking at a variety of options to hit back at Iran after the Islamic Republic fired more than a dozen missiles at US air bases in Iraq, a security expert told TRT World .
While the extent of the damage to US forces and equipment at the al Asad and Erbil bases in the Wednesday morning attack remains unclear, the administration of President Donald Trump will respond to what it sees a violation of a “red line,” said Ryan Bohl, a middle east analyst at Stratfor.
“The issue is that with Trump’s politics being what they are and his decision making being what we have seen, its seems that attempt to intimidate the White House is going to cause a counter reaction which is equal if not stronger than what the Iranians have done.”
The US forces were already on high alert after the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani last week in Iraq.
Iran said it has hit two US air bases with tens of ballistic missiles in retaliation to killing of Soleimani, who played a major role in leading Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria.
There have been no reports American casualties and Germany, a US-coalition member, said its soldiers at the Erbil base, were also safe.
The US officials say Trump has been briefed about the situation and he’s expected to make a statement in the next couple of hours.
“Everyone was expecting an Iranian retaliation,” said Bohl. “That being said, Americans had drawn a red line around such an attack and warned Iranians against it. It makes it almost impossible for the Americans not to retaliate in some capacity.”
Iranian leadership might have taken the risk of facing the US wrath because it also stands to gain politically considering the popularity of Soleimani among ordinary Iranians, he said.
“There’s definitely a very strong domestic component to this. Qasem Soleimani was too big for them not to react. And Iranians are rallying to the flag because of his killing and so they need to show that they are doing something.”
The US and Iran can become embroiled in a long-drawn conflict in which Iran will continue to assert influence and use its militia force in the region, said Bohl.
Even though an American counter attack won’t completely dismantle Iran’s military, it will definitely damage the Islamic Republic’s advanced weapons.
In any case, Iran has shown that it can hit US forces in different parts of the region and exposed the vulnerability of the American anti-missile system as was apparent when the Patriot defense system failed to protect Abqaiq oil facility in Saudi Arabia last year, he said.
“That’s something Iranians want the Americans to worry about.”