January 8 marks the anniversary of Iran’s pummeling of two military bases housing American troops in Iraq in response to the US assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched a barrage of missiles at the Ayn al-Asad airbase in Anbar province, with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei calling it the “first slap”.
Gen. Soleimani was martyred near Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020 in a drone strike authorized by former US President Donald Trump. All missiles fired at Ayn al-Asad base hit their designated targets, sending American forces scurrying for cover.
Trump sought to portray the missile strike as a minor incident. Shortly after the attack, he tweeted “All is well.” Later, in a press conference at the White House, he tried to play down the magnitude of the attack.
Media reports along with satellite images, however, showed the damage done to the base was much greater than what US officials acknowledged. There were also conflicting reports on the number of the wounded.
Despite initially claiming that the strike resulted in no casualties, the Trump administration ultimately announced that 110 US suffered traumatic brain injuries.
After the assassination, Iraqis repeatedly took to the streets and called for an end to the US military presence in their country. Protests were followed by the country’s parliament holding an extraordinary session where lawmakers voted to expel foreign forces.
Eventually, the US announced the end of its combat operation in Iraq back in December 2021 under an agreement with Baghdad, but stated that some 2,500 troops would remain on the ground as military advisors.
Observers and many Iraqi leaders say the relabeling is a cloak to deceive the Iraqi people and extend the stay of American forces in the Arab country.
However, what lingers on is the blow which Iran’s powerful strike dealt to the American prestige and its untouchable aura of invincibility.
In his first speech to the Iranian nation after the assassination, Ayatollah Khamenei touched on Iran’s response, saying that more important than a military strike, it was a serious blow to US prestige as a superpower.
“The US has been receiving blows in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan from the powerful resistance for many years. However, this was more important than all the previous blows. It was a major blow to America’s prestige."