Key facts about Al-Asad US air base in Iraq attacked by Iran

 | Updated: Jan 08, 2020, 12:20 PM IST

US troops have trained Iraqi troops at the base, located in Anbar province northwest of Baghdad, as part of Washington's bid to build a force that could mount an offensive against Islamic State militants.


Iran launched missile attacks on US-led forces in Iraq early on Wednesday, including the al-Asad air base, in retaliation to the US drone strike on an Iranian commander Soleimani whose killing raised fears of a wider Middle East conflict.

The attacks came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should expect retaliation over the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq on Friday.



US troops have trained Iraqi troops at the base, located in Anbar province northwest of Baghdad, as part of Washington's bid to build a force that could mount an offensive against Islamic State militants.

Aside from US and Iraqi forces, the air base has also hosted US-led coalition partners Denmark and the United Kingdom.


Trump at Al-Asad

Over the Christmas holidays in 2018, US President Donald Trump stopped there and made remarks to troops during a surprise visit to Iraq, his first journey to a conflict zone since taking office in January 2017.

During Trump's trip, he defended his decision to withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria. That policy shift sparked concern from allies and spurred James Mattis, his defence secretary at the time, to resign.


Al-Asad airbase

In 2015, the base came under regular harassing mortar fire from Islamic State militants.

The same year, the air base was attacked by 25 Islamic State fighters, but the Pentagon said at the time that Iraqi security forces guarding the perimeter killed most of the combatants.

Five rockets landed on the air base last month but did not cause any casualties.

Reports circulated last week that the air base had come under attack. Sources told Reuters, however, that reports of an attack on the base were false.


US drone

Earlier in the year, the Trump administration has pressed ahead with its revamp of drone export policy under pressure from American manufacturers, Reuters had reported.

The MTCR classifies large drones as cruise missiles - and therefore subject to high export restrictions - making approvals rare, according to newswire Reuters.


Quds Force

On April 8, 2019 Washington declared Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps a "terrorist" group. Its Quds Force, which operates abroad, is also put on the blacklist.

On May 5, Former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East.


Iranian missiles

On May 8, a year after Washington unilaterally withdrew from an international 2015 deal curbing Iran's nuclear programme and reimposed sanctions, Tehran warned it is prepared to resume nuclear activity.

Trump announced new sanctions against Iran's steel and mining sectors.


Saudi Aramco

On September 14, aerial attacks claimed by Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels sparked fires at two major Saudi oil facilities.

Tehran accused by the United States and other powers of being responsible but denied involvement.

On September 20, Trump announced "the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country", hitting Iran's central bank.

On November 7, Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordo plant -- its fourth walk-back from the 2015 nuclear accord.



Defend against aggression

After the missile strikes, Iran's foreign minister Javed Zarif in a tweet said: "Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched."

"We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression," Zarif added.



As the funeral procession began people in huge numbers chanted "death to America" with Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei shedding tears during prayers in Tehran.

"We will take revenge, hard and definitive revenge," the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami had said earlier.

However, US Joint Chief of Staff General Mark A. Milley said the threat from Soleimani was imminent. "We would have been culpably negligent to the American people had we not made the decision we made," he said.