TEHRAN, Iran — Iran struck back at the United States early Wednesday for killing a top Revolutionary Guard commander, firing a series of ballistic missiles at two military bases housing American troops in Iraq in a major escalation between the two longtime foes.
Iranian state TV said the attacks were in revenge for the U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose death last week in an American drone strike near Baghdad prompted angry calls to avenge his slaying.
A U.S. official said there were no immediate reports of American casualties, though buildings were still being searched.
The strikes, which came as Iran buried Soleimani, raised fears that the two longtime foes were closer to war. But there were some indications that there would not be further retaliation on either side, at least in the short term.
‘All is well!’ President Donald Trump tweeted shortly after the missile attacks, adding, ‘So far, so good,’ regarding casualties. Moments earlier, Iran’s foreign minister tweeted that Tehran had taken “& concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” adding that Tehran did “not seek escalation” but would defend itself against further aggression.
Soleimani’s killing and the strikes by Iran came as tensions have been rising steadily across the Mideast after Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. They also marked the first time in recent years that Washington and Tehran have attacked each other directly rather than through proxies in the region.
It raised the chances of open conflict erupting between the two enemies, who have been at odds since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. Embassy takeover and hostage crisis.
Iran initially announced only one strike, but U.S. officials confirmed both. U.S. defense officials were at the White House, likely to discuss options with Trump, who launched the attack on Soleimani while facing an upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned the U.S. and its regional allies against retaliating over the missile attack against the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province. The Guard issued the warning via a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.
“We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted,” the Guard said. It also threatened Israel.
After the strikes, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator posted a picture of the Islamic Republic’s flag on Twitter, appearing to mimic Trump, who posted an American flag following the killing of Soleimani and others Friday.
Ain al-Asad air base was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It later saw American troops stationed there amid the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. It houses about 1,500 U.S. and coalition forces.
Two Iraqi security officials said at least one of the missiles appeared to have struck a plane at the base, igniting a fire. It was not immediately clear whether it was an Iraqi or U.S. jet. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the attacks, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they had no permission to brief journalists.
About 70 Norwegian troops also were on the air base, but no injuries were reported, Brynjar Stordal, a spokesperson for the Norwegian Armed Forces, told The Associated Press.
Trump visited the sprawling Ain al-Asad air base west of Baghdad in December 2018, making his first presidential visit to troops in the region. He did not meet with any Iraqi officials at the time, and his visit inflamed sensitivities about the continued presence of U.S. forces in Iraq. Vice President Mike Pence also has visited the base.
Iranian state TV said the Guard’s Aerospace Division, which controls Iran’s missile program, launched the attack, which it said was part of an operation dubbed “Martyr Soleimani.” Iran said it would release more information later.
The U.S. also acknowledged another missile attack targeting a base in Irbil, in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners and allies in the region,” said Jonathan Hoffman, an assistant to the U.S. defense secretary.
Wednesday’s revenge attack happened a mere few hours after crowds in Iran mourned Soleimani at his funeral. It also came as the U.S. continued to reinforce its own positions in the region and warned of an unspecified threat to shipping from Iran in the region’s waterways, crucial routes for global energy supplies. U.S. embassies and consulates from Asia to Africa and Europe issued security alerts for Americans. The FAA also warned of a “potential for miscalculation or mis-identification” for civilian aircraft in the Persian Gulf amid an emergency flight restriction.
A stampede broke out Tuesday at Soleimani’s funeral, and at least 56 people were killed and more than 200 were injured as thousands thronged the procession, Iranian news reports said. Shortly after Iran’s revenge missile attack early Wednesday, Soleimani’s shroud-wrapped remains were lowered into the ground as mourners wailed at the grave site.
Tuesday’s deadly stampede took place in Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman as his coffin was being borne through the city in southeastern Iran, said Pirhossein Koulivand, head of Iran’s emergency medical services.
There was no information about what set off the crush in the packed streets, and online videos showed only its aftermath: people lying apparently lifeless, their faces covered by clothing, emergency crews performing CPR on the fallen, and onlookers wailing and crying out to God.
“Unfortunately as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions,” Koulivand said. State TV quoted him as saying the stampede killed 56 people and injured 213.
A procession in Tehran on Monday drew over 1 million people in the Iranian capital, crowding both main avenues and side streets in Tehran. Such mass crowds can prove dangerous. A smaller stampede at the 1989 funeral for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini killed at least eight people and injured hundreds.
Hossein Salami, Soleimani’s successor as leader of the Revolutionary Guard, earlier addressed a crowd of supporters in Kerman and vowed to avenge Soleimani.
“We tell our enemies that we will retaliate, but if they take another action we will set ablaze the places that they like and are passionate about,” Salami said.
“Death to Israel!” the crowd shouted in response, referring to one of Iran’s longtime regional foes.
Salami praised Soleimani’s work, describing him as essential to backing Palestinian groups, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria. As a martyr, Soleimani represented an even greater threat to Iran’s enemies, Salami said.
Soleimani was laid to rest between the graves of Enayatollah Talebizadeh and Mohammad Hossein Yousef Elahi, two former Guard comrades killed in Iran’s 1980s war with Iraq. They died in Operation Dawn 8, in which Soleimani also took part. It was a 1986 amphibious assault that cut Iraq off from the Persian Gulf and led to the end of the war that killed 1 million.
The funeral processions in major cities over three days have been an unprecedented honor for Soleimani, seen by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force.
The U.S. blames him for killing U.S. troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before he was killed.
Soleimani also led forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Assad in Syria on Tuesday amid the tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Soleimani’s slaying already has led Tehran to abandon the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers as his successor and others vow to take revenge.
In Iraq, pro-Iranian factions in parliament have pushed to oust American troops from Iraqi soil following Soleimani’s killing. Germany and Canada announced plans to move some of their soldiers in Iraq to neighboring countries.
The FAA warning issued barred U.S. pilots and carriers from flying over areas of Iraqi, Iranian and some Persian Gulf airspace. The region is a major East-West travel hub and home to Emirates airline and Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel. It earlier issued warnings after Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone last year that saw airlines plan new routes to avoid the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. Maritime Administration warned ships across the Mideast, citing the rising threats. “The Iranian response to this action, if any, is unknown, but there remains the possibility of Iranian action against U.S. maritime interests in the region,” it said.
Oil tankers were targeted in mine attacks last year that the U.S. blamed on Iran. Tehran denied responsibility, although it did seize oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s crude oil travels.
The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it would work with shippers in the region to minimize any possible threat.
The 5th Fleet “has and will continue to provide advice to merchant shipping as appropriate regarding recommended security precautions in light of the heightened tensions and threats in the region,” 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Joshua Frey told The Associated Press.
Iran’s parliament, meanwhile, has passed an urgent bill declaring the U.S. military’s command at the Pentagon and those acting on its behalf in Soleimani’s killing as “terrorists,” subject to Iranian sanctions. The measure appears to be in response to a decision by Trump in April to declare the Revolutionary Guard a “terrorist organization.”
The U.S. Defense Department used that terror designation to support the strike that killed Soleimani.
“The Current,” an exhibit of paintings by Tulsa artist Eric Sall, will open to the public Friday, Jan. 10, at the Philbrook Museum of Art. It will be the first time a temporary show of contemporary art will be displayed in the museum’s Villa Philbrook, which traditionally houses examples of the museum’s permanent collections.
The show includes the paintings that Sall, who came to Tulsa as part of the inaugural class of Tulsa Artist Fellowship, created on stage during performances last year with Tulsa Ballet.
Sall will give a talk about his work as part of the exhibit’s opening, at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at the museum, 2727 S. Rockford Road.
Downtown Tulsa’s Brady Theater began calling itself the Tulsa Theater on social media Tuesday but needs more time to finish restoring a historic sign that will be part of the venue’s brick-and-mortar rebranding.
The Brady, one of Tulsa’s oldest performance halls, first announced in December 2018 that it would change its name by the end of 2019.
“It’s taking longer than we wanted it to,” said Peter Mayo, who has owned the building since 1978. “But we’re working on it.”
As part of the renaming, Mayo plans to reuse a stainless-steel sign that spells out the word “Tulsa” in stylish script. In storage for the last four decades, the sign hung on the building from 1952 to 1979, while the venue was called the Tulsa Municipal Theater.
“The old Tulsa sign is being restored and fitted with LED lighting and is still under construction,” Mayo said, “and we hope to have it ready in February.”
In the meantime, the venue’s Facebook page refers to the name as “Tulsa Theater, formerly Brady Theater.” Mayo directed questions about the venue’s social media accounts to a marketing official who was not available Tuesday.
The venue’s management began considering a name change in 2013, when the city changed the name of Brady Street, where the theater sits near the intersection with Boulder Avenue.
Brady Street was named for pioneering Tulsa businessman W. Tate Brady, but his ties to the Ku Klux Klan prompted the City Council to rename the street in honor of M.B. Brady, a famed Civil War photographer with no ties to Tulsa or Oklahoma.
In 2017, the Brady Arts District Business Association renamed the entire neighborhood the Tulsa Arts District. And last year, the street’s name changed again to Reconciliation Way, erasing any mention of Brady.
The Tulsa Theater opened in 1914 as the Tulsa Convention Hall. In 1952, a renovation added a new front to the building, and its name became the Tulsa Municipal Theater.
Mayo bought the theater from the city after the Tulsa Performing Arts Center opened to serve as Tulsa’s premier performance venue. He originally called it the “Old Lady on Brady,” a nickname that Tulsans had used for a long time. The shorter name became official two years later.
Gallery: Brady Theater's notable performances and events in its storied history
Mayor G.T. Bynum clarified his vision Tuesday night for what qualities he wants to see in Tulsa’s next police chief, and then he spent an hour listening to what Tulsans would like to see.
Their visions, it turns out, weren’t that far apart.
The meeting at Hardesty Regional Library was the first of three the mayor is holding this week to gather public input before interviewing the seven internal candidates who have applied for the job.
Chief Chuck Jordan announced last month that he is retiring effective Feb. 1.
Bynum began by giving an overview of the initiatives his administration has undertaken to improve policing in the city.
He then laid out four key qualities he’ll be looking for in the next police chief. He wants someone who possesses strategies for and understands the importance of continuing existing policies to make the city safer; has bought into and understands the importance of community policing; has strong financial management skills; and is committed to innovation and the use of technology.
The Tulsa residents who spoke — nearly 20 of them — spoke in more concrete terms, with many of their comments focused on alleged racial disparities in policing and the mistrust they said many Tulsans have for the police.
Erica Stone-Burnett said she would like the next police chief to update the Police Department’s use-of-force policies, engage in de-escalation training and receive more implicit-bias training.
“I just want to make sure the next police chief is addressing race issues in this city,” she said.
Five women who had lost children from suicide stood before the mayor to urge him to find a chief who will stress the need to train officers to deal with people struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.
One of the women, Barbara Hathcock, listed several people who were killed by Tulsa police officers while those people were under the grip of mental illness or substance abuse.
“Those of us with family members who suffer with mental illness live with a fear of interacting with the police,” she said.
Shelley Cadamy, a white mother of three black children, said she respects the work law enforcement does.
“But I have also seen my children and others who look like them treated differently by law enforcement professionals,” she said.
Alberto DeAlba told Bynum that police have repeatedly declined to provide their names and badge numbers when he has encountered them and suggested that they have not always been as understanding as he would like them to be.
“I would like a chief of police who is a little bit more in touch with the reality that everybody lives every day,” DeAlba said.
Julie Skye spoke of the city’s long struggle to come to terms with and address the ramifications of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and its effect on relationships between African-Americans and police.
Of the next police chief, she said, “I don’t know how it can be a white man who grew up in Tulsa.”
Bynum said after the meeting that what he heard Tuesday was consistent with what he’s heard from other members of the community. He made clear that the next police chief will have to be someone who is dedicated to racial reconciliation.
“When I talk about community policing, I take it for granted that people understand that I am talking about outreach and racial reconciliation,” he said. “But I shouldn’t make that (assumption).
“Of course, we want that absolutely at the forefront of the considerations and evaluation that I will be making.”
The seven internal candidates who have applied for the job are Maj. Luther Breashears, Deputy Chief Jonathan Brooks, Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish, Maj. Wendell Franklin, 911 Center Director Matthew Kirkland, Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen and Maj. Laurel Roberts.
Bynum said Tuesday that he would be surprised if he looked outside the department for a candidate but did not rule it out.
He praised the seven candidates again Tuesday, saying they provide a strong group from which to select the next chief.
He gave two reasons why he is inclined to select an internal candidate.
“I don’t necessarily want somebody who started learning about the Tulsa Race Massacre in February 2020,” he said.
The second reason, he said, is that the next police chief must have buy-in from the officers he or she is leading.
“I think the internal candidates we have are better positioned to be able to do that than someone who has not set foot in Tulsa,” Bynum said.
The mayor’s second public meeting to discuss what is wanted in Tulsa’s next police chief is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Ancestral Hall in Rudisill Library, 1520 N. Hartford Ave.
The final meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Learning Center, Room 145, 4502 E. 41st St.