FILE - Al-Asad air base is seen in the western Anbar desert, Iraq, Dec. 29, 2019.

FILE - Al-Asad air base is seen in the western Anbar desert, Iraq, Dec. 29, 2019.

PENTAGON - Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles early Wednesday targeting at least two Iraqi air bases that house U.S. troops, the Pentagon said.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted hours later that an assessment of casualties and damage was taking place, but that "So far, so good!"

"We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!" he said.

Trump met with his national security team at the White House, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.  He planned to make a statement Wednesday morning.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in his own tweet that Iran had taken and concluded "proportionate measures in self defense" by targeting a base "from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched."

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

The missile attack was the latest step in a series of events that have unfolded in the past two weeks with increasing tensions between the United States and Iran.  The U.S. blamed an Iran-backed militia for a rocket attack on an Iraqi base that killed a U.S. military contractor.  U.S. airstrikes then hit that militia's positions in Iraq and Syria, drawing complaints from the Iraqi government and militia-led demonstrations at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  On Friday, a U.S. airstrike killed Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's elite Quds force, near Baghdad's airport.

The Pentagon said the missiles launched from Iran targeted the Al-Asad base, located about 60 kilometers west of Baghdad, as well as one in Irbil, part of Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps sent out a statement hailing what it says was a successful missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, calling it "revenge for the assassination and martyrdom of Qassem Soleimani."

An Iraqi security source told CNN that there are casualties among the Iraqis at al-Asad air base following the attack. But it is not yet known whether those causalities are wounded or killed.

Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN that "The President and his crew better figure out a way to tone things down, because we could be in the midst of a full-blown war."

"What we have to do now is tone down the rhetoric on all sides and extricate ourselves from this situation," he added.

Steven David, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, told VOA the potential for the situation is "very frightening" with two leaders and countries that do not want to back down, and which are armed with all kinds of physical and cyber weapons.

"On the other hand, I do hope that at some point both sides simmer down and allow this to de-escalate," David said.  "There's a lot of Iran can do in the area.  It can attack Saudi Arabia, it can attack Israel, especially with cyber, it can attack America. Neither country wants this to get out of hand, and to me, that's the most people positive sign in this horrible mess."

Tom Warrick, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, noted officials from many nations around the world have called on the United States and Iran to de-escalate, and pointed the role Iraq may play going forward as the country where the back-and-forth attacks have taken place.

"What we're faced with is a situation where I believe that Iraq is going to go to the United Nations and demand that the United Nations put together some kind of process that will get Iraq out of the middle of the dispute between the United States and Iran," Warrick told VOA.  "And we'll have to see whether the diplomats in New York can come up with a way that tries to get the countries talking rather than fighting."

Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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