The leader of the Lebanese group Hezbollah said Iran‘s missile attacks on two Iraqi bases housing US troops was just the beginning of the retaliation for the US killing of a top Iranian general in a drone strike.
In a 90-minute speech on Sunday, Hassan Nasrallah called the attacks a “slap” to Washington, describing the strikes as the “first step down a long path” that will ensure US troops withdraw from the Middle East.
“The Americans must remove their bases, soldiers, officers and ships from our region. They should leave,” he said. The attacks caused no casualties and appeared to mainly have been a show of force.
“The alternative … to leave vertically is leaving horizontally,” Nasrallah said, apparently suggesting US troops would exit the Middle East in coffins if they did not go voluntarily.
“We are speaking about the start of a phase, about a new battle, about a new era in the region,” he said.
Hezbollah is closely aligned to Iran with the IRGC providing training for Hezbollah combatants who fought in Syria.
Nasrallah’s comments came as rockets slammed into an Iraqi airbase north of Baghdad where US troops are based. Security forces said several Iraqi airmen were wounded in the attack. There was no claim of responsibility.
The speech marked one week since Soleimani was killed in a US air strike on January 3 at Baghdad’s international airport.
Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several others were also killed in the attack, which escalated already high US-Iran tensions.
Iran for days promised to respond forcefully before launching the missile attacks on Wednesday. Afterwards, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter the country had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defence”.
Rhetoric has cooled further since Iran admitted to killing 176 people by “unintentionally” shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane hours after the missile attacks.
Nasrallah praised Iran’s leadership for admitting to accidentally shooting down the plane, calling the acknowledgement “transparency that is unparalleled in the world”.
Iran initially said a technical failure caused the crash and insisted its armed forces were not to blame.
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