What must know:
- Iranian state TV says Tehran has launched “tens” of surface-to-surface missiles at the Al-Assad and Erbil bases inside Iraq in response to America’s killing of a top Iranian general
- The Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps has claimed responsibility
- The Pentagon released a statement confirming the bases were attacked, saying “more than a dozen” ballistic missiles were fired
- Iranian media reported Tehran had launched a second round of missiles at bases in Iraq an hour after the first wave
- White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said US President Donald Trump was briefed and is monitoring the situation
- The attack followed threats of revenge from Iran after the death of General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a US air strike at Baghdad International Airport on Friday
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison says no Australian diplomatic or ADF staff were injured and that all are safe
- Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says the country does not seek “escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression”
- US President Donald Trump says assessment of damage and casualities taking place but “so far, so good”
What Mr. Trump is going to do now ?
1. Do nothing
This would fly in the face of what Mr Trump has repeatedly said he’d do as tensions between the two countries have continued to escalate.
Last week the President tweeted: “Should Iran strike any US person or target, the United States will quickly and fully strike back, and perhaps in a disproportionate manner.”
Just hours before the recent attacks, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that the US would respond with force if necessary and put the responsibility for de-escalation squarely on Iran.
However, Iran has offered Trump an enticing opportunity to stop the march to war by saying they’re through with their attacks for now. They would not escalate the situation unless the US responded.
If Mr Trump chose to take them up on that offer — if he walked away with nothing besides Soleimani’s death — you could expect him to still tout it as a victory on the campaign trail.
2. Pull troops out of the region
There was a split moment where this looked like a possibility thanks to an unsigned letter that surfaced in the media but has since been labelled a mistake.
Part of the reason the letter caught hold is that Mr Trump has made a campaign promise out of “ending endless wars”, and he’s recently reiterated his desire for American troops to completely pull out. But he’s also said now is not the right time.
It would threaten Iraq’s stability further and allow Iran to further spread its tentacles throughout the region.
3. Issue economic sanctions
America has already imposed a severe arms ban and an almost total economic embargo on Iran, which includes sanctions on companies doing business with the country.
There’s also a ban on Iranian-origin imports, sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and an almost total ban on selling aircraft to the country’s aviation industry.
Has any of that stopped Iran from striking bases housing American troops? No.
So what would further sanctions do? Perhaps little.
4. Strike another government official
If the reaction to Soleimani’s death has made anything clear, it’s that this would be a bit of a disproportionate response to any move that didn’t result in a staggering number of US fatalities.
Past US presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama decided killing Major-General Soleimani was never worth the risk, and Mr Trump’s counter-decision was seen as a shock by everyone from world leaders to his own military advisers.
But the US certainly has the intel and firepower to assassinate any number of Iranian leaders if that’s what Mr Trump ordered.
5. Damage a military base or state infrastructure
An attack of this nature could range in severity, but would likely be considered the most proportionate to Iran’s actions today.
The US might consider attacking more militant bases in Iraq or Syria, which it considers to be proxies for the Iranian Government.
This was what led the US to strike several bases of Kataib Hezbollah late last year, killing 25 militia members.
It’s unlikely America would target infrastructure like oil facilities. That would send up global oil prices, which Mr Trump does not want. It could also upset other global powers who rely on Iranian oil.
The US could also launch a cyber attack on key infrastructure and suppliers. An attack of this nature can be specifically targeted, which is the route the US took in June in retaliation for attacks on US oil tankers.
But a broader attack could leave swaths of the country without electricity or functioning computers.
6. Attack a cultural site or civilians
Last week, Mr Trump said he had 52 Iranian sites — “some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture” — in mind for where he’d strike should Iran retaliate.
Several Iranian officials and US pundits pointed out that this would be a war crime, per the 1954 Hague Convention. The US has always been a proponent of saving cultural sites during war. Mr Trump’s staff tried to walk back the claim, saying that the US would “behave lawfully” and “follow the laws of armed conflict” but the President at first doubled down, telling reporters “it doesn’t work that way”.
“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people,” he said.
They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites?”
The President appeared to change his stance at a press conference today. “If that’s what the law is … I like to obey the law,” Mr Trump said. Most of the world would consider this an extremely disproportionate response. If it went forward, one could expect the escalation to reach the point of no return.
Source: ABC News