World reacts after Iran fires missiles at US targets in Iraq

Iran launches missile strikes at US facilities in Iraq, less than a week after US killed top general.

Iran has fired more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi military bases hosting United States troops, the Pentagon confirmed.

The missiles targeted the Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar Province and a facility near Erbil’s airport in northern Iraq early on Wednesday morning; they were fired in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani by the United States, Iran said.

US President Donald Trump said the attacks did not harm any US or Iraqi troops and that the damage was minimal, an outcome he said showed Tehran wanted to de-escalate the standoff. 

Following the attacks, governments around the world called for a return to diplomacy and considered plans to withdraw their citizens.

Below are reactions from around the world.

Latvia

Latvia said it will move six soldiers deployed in Iraq as part of a Danish contingent – which is also leaving – to Kuwait.

“First of all, it (the decision) is connected with the security issues and the second reason is that all the training in Iraq is halted at the moment,” Latvian Defence Ministry spokesman Kaspars Galkins said. 

The contingent had been training Iraqi troops and assisting in the fight against ISIL. 

Russia

Russia‘s Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov said the evolving situation in the Middle East was the result of “wrongful and very risky actions by the US”.

Lavrov was speaking at a press briefing in Istanbul alongside his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu. 

Denmark 

The Danish armed forces said in a post on Twitter that no Danish soldiers were injured or killed in Wednesday’s missile strike on the Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq. 

Denmark has about 130 soldiers at the base as part of the international coalition fighting ISIL (the ISIS group) in Iraq and Syria.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said some Danish troops at the Ain al-Assad base would be moved to Kuwait.

Cyprus

Cyprus has agreed to host a US rapid-response team on the island in case US diplomatic personnel or civilians need to be evacuated amid rising tensions in the Middle East.

Cyprus “gave its consent for the temporary stationing in Cyprus of a rapid-response unit whose task will be to evacuate US diplomatic missions to the region, as well as US citizens, if necessary,” government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos said.

He stressed that the request by the US was accepted “for exclusively humanitarian operations”. 

Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned against escalating tension between Turkey’s neighbour Iran and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally the US, adding that Ankara “uses every means available” to avoid a new conflict.

“At this critical period of war drums being played, we are trying to ease tensions, using all diplomacy channels,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan has called for calm in the Middle East region [File: Presidential Press Service via AP Photo]

“Nobody has the right to throw the whole region, particularly Iraq, into a new ring of fire”.

Turkey does not want the region to be “a stage for proxy wars,” he added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will travel to Iraq on Thursday. 

United Nations

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres renewed his “passionate appeal for peace”, stressing that the world cannot afford a war in the Persian Gulf.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric reiterated Guterres’s appeal to world leaders to “stop escalation” and “re-start dialogue”.

The United Nations mission in Iraq said Iran’s attacks escalate tensions and called for “urgent” restraint.

“Recent missile attacks in Erbil and Anbar governorates only escalate conflict, and again violate Iraqi sovereignty,” the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said in an online statement.

“Senseless violence has predictable effects. We call for urgent restraint and a resumption of dialogue”. 

Slovenia

Slovenia’s defence ministry said its six soldiers stationed in northern Iraq with a German-led training mission will be evacuated after their base came under attack from Iran’s missiles.

The Slovenian ministry said the soldiers were unhurt in the attack near Erbil as they were in the base’s shelter at the time.

It added that the evacuation will be conducted “in cooperation with the German partners.” It did not say where the soldiers will go. 

Syria

The Syrian government has expressed “full solidarity” with Iran, saying Tehran “has the right to defend itself in the face of American threats and attacks.”

The foreign ministry said in a statement that Syria holds “the American regime responsible for all the repercussions due to its reckless policy and arrogant mentality.”

Italy

Italy has condemned Iran’s missile attacks against the US-led coalition and repeated its call for de-escalation of tensions.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry again urged its European allies to work for dialogue, according to a statement.

Italy has some 900 troops in Iraq, based in Baghdad and Erbil and involved in training Iraqi troops and fighting ISIS.

NATO

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in a tweet on Wednesday condemned the missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing US troops and called on Iran to “refrain from further violence”.

A NATO official said there were no casualties among the troops on its training mission in Iraq. The alliance nevertheless announced on Tuesday that it was moving some of its trainers out of Iraq. 

“We are taking all precautions necessary to protect our people. This includes the temporary repositioning of some personnel to different locations both inside and outside of Iraq,” a NATO official told Reuters News Agency.

The NATO Iraq mission, made up of several hundred trainers, advisers and support staff from both countries of the 29-member alliance and non-NATO partner countries, includes military and civilian personnel.

France

The French foreign ministry expressed its condemnation of the Iranian strikes targeting military bases that house US troops in Iraq.

“France would like to highlight again the importance of continuing the fight against the Islamic State , while respecting the sovereignty of Iraq,” said a statement from the ministry.

Kurdish region of northern Iraq

Leaders of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq said US-led military support in fighting the ISIL (ISIS) group was vital and urged its member states not to allow the group’s revival.

“In regards to the recent events, and in particular this morning’s, the Kurdistan Region reiterates that military solution will in no way solve the problems,” the regional president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker said in a statement.

“The Kurdistan Region supports de-escalation of the situation and seeks dialogue and diplomatic solution to the problems. It also seeks stability and peace and urges all parties to refrain from dragging the Kurdistan Region into the rivalries.” 

Norway

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg labelled the Iranian missile attacks “an escalation”.

“This is an escalation and a retaliation. Our main message is that it is important to find means to de-escalate this conflict. We are not served if this erupts into war,” Solberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

Solberg said Oslo was in touch with other countries in the international coalition against ISIL.

Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen is “deeply concerned over the dramatic escalation we have seen in recent days”.

“I would urge all sides to calm the situation down and prevent it from escalating out of control,” he added in a statement.

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that his country would strike back hard against anyone who attacked it, reiterating his support for the Trump administration following the killing of Soleimani.

“Whoever tries to attack us will be dealt the strongest blow,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem.

He said Israel “stands completely” beside Donald Trump’s decision, saying the US president should be congratulated for acting “swiftly, boldly and resolutely”.

Spain

Spain’s acting Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the government has pulled out some of its troops from Iraq due to security concerns.

“Those who were in riskier positions have left for Kuwait,” Calvo told state broadcaster RTVE. “There is only a reduced number left there.”

The decision comes as NATO announced it would move some of its military training personnel out of Iraq amid fears of a regional conflagration.

European Union

The European Commission called for an immediate end to the use of weapons in the Middle East conflict amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, urging efforts to restart dialogue.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news briefing before departing to London that she would discuss the situation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“The use of weapons must stop now to give space for dialogue,” she told reporters after a meeting of her commissioners.

“We are called upon to do everything possible to rekindle talks. There cannot be enough of that. We have established and time-tested relations with many actors in the region and beyond to de-escalate the situation,” she said. 

Germany

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said her country “rejects this aggression in the sharpest possible terms”.

She told German public broadcaster ARD that “it’s now particularly up to the Iranians not to engage in further escalation”.

None of the German troops stationed in Iraq were injured.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said it is essential for the region to pull back from current “troubling” tensions.

“De-escalation is both wise and necessary. A political path towards stability must follow,” Gargash said on Twitter.

The Gulf country’s foreign ministry said tensions in the region “will not affect citizens, residents or visitors”. It stressed that sectors across the UAE were operating normally. 

Poland

Poland’s defence minister said Polish troops stationed in Iraq were not hurt during Wednesday’s missile attacks. 

“None of the Polish soldiers in Iraq were hurt in rocket attacks on Al-Asad and Erbil bases. We are in constant contact with the commander of the Polish Military Contingent in Iraq,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom condemned the Iranian missile attacks on military bases in Iraq that hosted US-led coalition forces including British personnel.

“We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition – including British – forces,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

“We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation.” 

During a parliamentary session on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Iran to “not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks” but instead “pursue urgent de-escalation”. 

Johnson added that Soleimani “had the blood of British troops on his hands”.

Iraq

Iraq said it “refuses any violation of its sovereignty and any attacks on its territory,” in a statement from the prime minister’s office.

It added that Iraq is doing everything in its power to contain the situation and avoid a “devastating all-out war”.

Iraq has summoned the Iranian ambassador over the incident.

The Iraqi prime ministry said Iran notified Iraq shortly after midnight that its response to Soleimani’s killing had begun and that retaliation would be limited to locations where the US military is present.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s office said it was simultaneously informed by the US that two of its military bases were under attack. 

Iraq’s military said there were no Iraqi casualties among its forces in Wednesday’s 22-missile attack on the two military installations.

“Iraq was subjected between 1:45 and 2:45 this morning of 8 January 2020 to bombardment by 22 missiles; 17 missiles fell on Ain al-Asad air base including two that did not explode … and five on the city of Erbil that all fell on coalition headquarters. No casualties among Iraqi forces were recorded,” the statement said.

Japan

Japan urged governments to do their utmost to help ease tensions following the missile strikes. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to call off a visit this weekend to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Spokesman Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that his “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 relations,” he added.

Japan is sending a warship to the Gulf to help safeguard Japanese vessels and oil tankers travelling through the area.

Canada

Some of Canada‘s 500 military personnel based in Iraq will be temporarily moved to Kuwait for safety reasons, the country’s top military official said on Tuesday.

“Over the coming days, and as a result of Coalition and NATO planning, some of our people will be moved temporarily from Iraq to Kuwait,” said the defence staff chief, General Jonathan Vance, in a letter to military families posted on Twitter.

“Simply put, we are doing this to ensure their safety and security,” he wrote.

Citing the continuing volatile security situation, the regional threat of “terrorism” and the risk of arbitrary detention, Ottawa on Wednesday issued a travel warning asking its citizens to avoid “non-essential” travel to Iran. 

It asked its citizens to “avoid all travel” to the area within 10 kilometres of Iran’s border with Iraq.

Australia

Following the attacks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all his country’s troops and diplomatic staff in Iraq were safe.

Approximately 300 Australian defence personnel are stationed in Iraq.

Morrison said he had discussed the situation between the US and Iran with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday during a call about the bushfires raging in Australia.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Morrison said in reference to Soleimani’s killing: “The United States have taken the action that they have to address what has been intelligence that they say they received, which was putting their interests at risk and under threat.”

The Philippines 

The Philippines has ordered its citizens to leave Iraq in the wake of the strikes by Iran, the Philippine foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“The alert level in the entire Iraq has been raised to alert level 4 calling for mandatory evacuation,” said Eduardo Mendez, spokesman at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The department said there were 1,600 Philippine citizens working in Iraq, more than half in the Kurdish Region of northern Iraq and the rest at US and other foreign facilities in Baghdad.

A Philippine coastguard patrol vessel, newly acquired from France and en route to the Philippines, was ordered to sail to Oman and Dubai to assist citizens who may need to leave.

“Overseas Filipino workers will be brought to safer ports where there may be airlifted as the need arises,” the coastguard said in a statement.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who heads a newly created committee to prepare the evacuations, said on Tuesday the government was preparing aircraft for Filipinos in Iraq and Iran who wished to come home or move to safer areas.

About 2.3 million people from the Philippines are working in the Middle East as domestic helpers, construction workers, engineers and nurses.

Pakistan 

Pakistan‘s Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had asked his foreign minister to visit Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US to convey the message that Pakistan “is ready to play it’s [sic] role for peace but it can never again be part of any war”.

Pakistan also issued a statement advising citizens planning to visit Iraq to exercise “maximum caution”.

“In view of recent developments and the prevailing security situation in the region, Pakistani nationals are advised to exercise maximum caution while planning visit to Iraq at this point,” the statement read.

“Those already in Iraq are advised to remain in close contact with the Embassy of Pakistan in Baghdad.”

India

India has advised its nationals to avoid all non-essential travel to Iraq until further notice.

Those already in the country have been told to be alert and avoid travelling around the country.

New Zealand

New Zealand‘s acting prime minister, Winston Peters, expressed concern over the escalation in hostilities between Iran and the US.

“Now is the time for restraint and de-escalation, and for diplomacy to take over … the government has been informed that all New Zealand personnel are as safe as they can be in these developing circumstances,” Peters said.

New Zealand has 50 military personnel in Iraq, where Iran attacked two bases on Wednesday. Camp Taji, where most of those personnel are stationed, was not attacked, Peters said.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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