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Iran says U.S. bears blame for Iranian forces shooting down plane

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Troops describe Iranian strike

Iran said Tuesday that dozens of people had been arrested over the Islamic Republic's apparently unintentional shooting down of a Ukrainian jetliner last week. The arrests come amid Iranian vows to fully and openly investigate the firing of the surface-to-air missile that downed the plane, killing all 176 people on board.

But while Iran confessed to shooting the jet down — three days after the fact and under intense international pressure — its president asserted Tuesday that the "root causes" of the tragedy were U.S. actions.  

"It was the U.S. that caused such an incident to take place," Iran's state-controlled news agency Tasnim quoted President Hassan Rouhani as saying. The Iranian regime has blamed the Trump administration for ratcheting up tensions with the controversial decision to kill senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a January 2 drone strike in Baghdad.  

Iranian forces shot the plane down hours after launching a barrage of ballistic missiles at military bases in Iraq housing hundreds of U.S. forces, in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Officials in Tehran have said their forces were on high-alert for any U.S. response to the missile attack, and the operator who fired on the plane believed it was an incoming American missile.

Iran's attack on the bases killed no one, but U.S. officials have dismissed speculation that Iran might have deliberately missed the troops in a bid to prevent further escalation of hostilities with the U.S.

The U.S. forces in Iraq had "multiple hours" of warning that an Iranian strike was coming, a senior U.S. official told CBS News on Monday. But American troops at the main base struck by Iran told CBS News they had just minutes to take cover, and many still can't believe everyone escaped unscathed. One American commander said Iran was "shooting to kill."

  Updated 5:04 PM / January 14, 2020

Senator says he has 51 votes to restrain Trump on Iran

Senator Tim Kaine said he has at least 51 votes to support a bipartisan resolution asserting that President Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. The Virginia Democrat said the Senate could vote as soon as next week on the measure.

Republican Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky have co-sponsored the resolution, and GOP Senators Todd Young of Indiana and Susan Collins of Maine said Tuesday they will support it. The bipartisan measure "clearly states that America can always defend itself,'' against attack from Iran or any other country, Kaine said, "but we don't think that this president — or any president — should send our troops into war without a vote of Congress.''

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans oppose the resolution, saying it would send the wrong message to allies. The House passed a separate war powers resolution last week.

- Associated Press

  Updated 2:37 PM / January 14, 2020

Russia calls European pressure on Iran "ill-considered"

Russia called the move by Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday to ratchet up pressure on Iran to stop violating its landmark nuclear deal an "ill-considered decision" that could lead to a new escalation and make a return to the original framework "unachievable." The Europeans have reluctantly triggered the accord's dispute mechanism to force Iran into discussions, starting the clock on a process that could result in the "snapback" of U.N. and European Union sanctions on Iran.

"We see no reason for such a step," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The three European nations specifically avoided threatening the sanctions while emphasizing hopes for a negotiated resolution.

Iran's Foreign Ministry warned of a "serious and strong response." Meanwhile, ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi held out an olive branch, saying his country was "fully ready to answer any good will and constructive effort" that preserves the deal, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported.

- Associated Press

  Updated 12:55 PM / January 14, 2020

Iran's foreign minister pulls out of forum, averting chance meeting with U.S. officials

Iran's foreign minister has canceled an expected appearance at next week's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, organizers said Tuesday, citing the "backdrop of uncertainty" in the Middle East. The move averts a possible crossing-of-paths with top U.S. officials, including President Trump, in the Alpine town at a time when relations between Iran and the U.S. have hit a new low.

WEF President Borge Brende cited only the "cancellation" by Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was notably sanctioned by the Trump administration even before the new tensions. Brende declined to elaborate on the reasons for Zarif's cancellation.

"We have to understand the cancellation against the backdrop of uncertainty in the region and what his happening in Iran," he told reporters at WEF headquarters in Geneva at a look-ahead event to the 50th anniversary of the forum. All told, nearly 3,000 leaders from 118 countries are expected for the January 21-24 event.

- Associated Press

  10:56 AM / January 14, 2020

Pompeo calls Soleimani killing part of broader strategy

Pompeo says Soleimani killing was part of broader strategy to combat global threats

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was part of a broader strategy to combat worldwide threats. His latest defense of the decision to kill Soleimani in a drone strike came as White House officials offered a changing explanation over the threats Soleimani posed to U.S. troops and diplomats in the Middle East. 

Pompeo had earlier insisted that the Iranian commander posed an "imminent threat," but President Trump has now said "it doesn't really matter" if the threat was imminent because Soleimani had the blood of Americans on his hands. 

Watch the video above for CBS News State Department and foreign affairs reporter Christina Ruffini's analysis of the changing message from the White House.  

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:17 PM / January 14, 2020

Iraqi cleric calls for huge rally as Iran's allies keep pushing for U.S. withdrawal

Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called Tuesday on Iraqis to stage "a unified and peaceful million-man rally to denounce the U.S. presence and its violations in Iraq."

Reports emerged Monday that al-Sadr had visited Iran to participate in a meeting with other Iraqi Shiite leaders to craft a strategy to bring about the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq. Iran has said that its revenge for the U.S. killing of top military commander Qassam Soleimani would be to force an American withdrawal from the region.

One of the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, the Al-Nujaba Movement, posted a photo on its Twitter account showing al-Sadr with other Shiite leaders who attended the meeting in the Iranian holy city of Qom.

Following Iran's official retaliation for the U.S. drone strike, which consisted of a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting military bases in Iraq, al-Sadr called on factions inside and outside Iraq to form what he called the "Global Resistance Squads," aimed at prompting a U.S. withdrawal, but he urged the militias to hold their fire until all political efforts to oust the U.S. were exhausted.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi reaffirmed on Tuesday that his government would not back down from the parliament's decision to order the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraqi territory.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday evening that Iraq's leaders had told him they still support the American military presence in their country, despite the public calls for a withdrawal. The Trump administration has threatened to impose sanctions and cut all support for Iraq if U.S. forces are ordered to leave.

- Khaled Wassef

  Updated 12:23 PM / January 14, 2020

EU nations trigger nuke deal mechanism that could bring U.N. sanctions back

The governments of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom triggered the dispute resolution mechanism of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, giving Iran 60 days to get back into full compliance with the terms of the deal or face reimposed United Nations sanctions.

Margaret Brennan, moderator of CBS' "Face the Nation," said that, up to this point the non-U.S. signatories to the nuclear agreement, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), had essentially allowed Iran to push the limits following the Trump administration's unilateral withdrawal in 2018.  

"Iran has continued to break key restrictions set out in the JCPOA. Iran's actions are inconsistent with the provisions of the nuclear agreement and have increasingly severe and non-reversible proliferation implications," a statement from the foreign ministers of Germany, France and the U.K. said.

The three nations said they had "been left with no choice, given Iran's actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments under the JCPOA," but they stressed that their "overarching objective" was to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal. 

They noted that they would not join the Trump administration's "campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran" as their hope was still to "bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA."

Iran's Foreign Ministry warned the country would respond to any reimposition of sanctions in a "serious and strong" manner, but said the country was still "fully ready to answer any good will and constructive effort" to preserve the deal.

By Haley Ott
  7:26 AM / January 14, 2020

Videos show anti-government protests continuing in Iran

New videos posted to social media on Tuesday showed protests taking place for a fourth day in a row in Tehran, with demonstrators denouncing the Iranian regime's handling of its accidental shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger jet.

In one video a crowed gathered outside a Tehran university could be heard chanting, "where is justice?"

On Monday Iranian officials denied reports that protesters were shot at with live ammunition after videos purportedly showing people suffering bullet wounds, and blood on sidewalks, were posted online.

President Trump warned Iran's leaders over the weekend not to "kill your protesters" as the reports emerged. 

CBS News could not independently verify the extent of the ongoing anti-government protests, and there was no mention of the demonstrations on Iran's own media outlets, which are tightly controlled by the Islamic cleric-led regime. Fewer videos emerged of the protests on Tuesday than previous days.

By Tucker Reals
  6:13 AM / January 14, 2020

U.K. leader says world in "a better place now"

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that he was "glad" Iran had taken responsibility for the shooting down of the Ukrainian International Airlines jet that killed 176 people, but said "the most important thing is (that) tensions in the region calm down."

Johnson would not say whether he believed the world was indeed a safer place thanks to the Trump administration's killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, as White House officials strongly contend, but he did say the region was "in a better place now" than at the peak of the U.S.-Iranian tensions last week.

Johnson told CBS News partner network BBC News that he did not currently "envisage" any further escalation of the standoff with Iran. 

By Tucker Reals
  5:54 AM / January 14, 2020

Iran leader suggests "special court" to hear plane crash case

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country should "form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts" to hear the case deciding culpability for the Iranian military's shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger jet last week. 

"This is not a usual and ordinary case," Rouhani said. "The entire world will be watching this court."

Iran Plane Crash
In this photo released by official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran, January 14, 2020. Iranian Presidency Office/AP

In accepting blame for the mistaken shoot-down over the weekend, an Iranian military official said a single "operator" had made the incorrect decision to shoot down the plane, thinking it was an incoming cruise missile. But Rouhani said Tuesday it was "not possible for just one person to be the culprit in this incident. It is not possible for only the person who pushed the button to be at fault. There are others too and I would like this case to be explained to the people with honesty."

Iran's judiciary said Tuesday that about 30 people had been arrested over the incident, but some had already been released. It was not clear how many were still detained, or who they were.

By Tucker Reals
  3:39 PM / January 13, 2020

Attorney general: Strike helped avoid "continuing upward spiral" of violence

Attorney General William Barr said the strike on Qassem Soleimani "reestablished deterrence" and helped avoid a "continuing upward spiral" of violence in the region.

"This was a legitimate act of self-defense because it disrupted ongoing attacks that were being conducted, a campaign against the Americans, and it reestablished deterrence," Barr said during a press conference Monday afternoon. "It responded to attacks that had been already committed. Our purpose and our expectation was not to trigger a broader conflict, or events would spin out of control. On the contrary, we believe that the strike would restore deterrence and help avoid a continuing upward spiral of the violence."

Barr said he believed there was intelligence of an imminent attack, but he said he wouldn't discuss specifics.

By Alex Sundby
  Updated 1:26 PM / January 13, 2020

Former official: "No serious consideration" for killing Soleimani during Obama administration

A National Security Council staffer who served under President Obama said there was "no serious consideration" for killing Qassem Soleimani during the previous administration.

The former official noted that the circumstances in the region were different. U.S.-Iranian tensions were lower, and the Obama administration was trying to set conditions for nuclear negotiations. Once those negotiations began, it would have been counterproductive to target a senior military official.

The official cited the Trump administration's withdrawal from the nuclear deal as a catalyst for violence against American interests in the region.

- Major Garrett and Arden Farhi

  Updated 12:13 PM / January 13, 2020

Trump authorized Soleimani killing months before deadly strike

President Trump authorized the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani last summer or fall, two sources familiar with the matter tell CBS News.

NBC News, citing five current and former senior administration officials, reported on Monday that Mr. Trump authorized Soleimani's killing seven months ago if Iran's increasingly belligerent actions led to the death of an American. NBC News said the president reserved the right to greenlight the specific operation himself.

The strike that killed Soleimani ultimately took place January 3, when Mr. Trump ordered a drone strike targeting a convoy carrying Soleimani in Baghdad. In addition to Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah, was also killed in the attack.

Soleimani's killing came after months of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, punctuated by a week of violent confrontations.

- Margaret Brennan and Melissa Quinn

  Updated 10:48 AM / January 13, 2020

U.K. summons Iranian envoy over ambassador's arrest

Britain summoned Iran's ambassador to London on Monday after its Tehran envoy was briefly arrested for allegedly attending an anti-government demonstration over the weekend in the Iranian capital.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said Britain would convey its "strong objections" over Rob Macaire's arrest, calling it an "unacceptable breach" of diplomatic protocol, as Macaire has diplomatic immunity. 

Macaire said he was detained for several hours after attending what he thought was to be a peaceful candlelight vigil for those who died when an Iranian missile brought down a Ukrainian airliner last week.

Macaire says he and his staff left as soon as it became clear the peaceful vigil had turned into a protest, with chants against Iran's clerical regime.

- AFP

  Updated 10:49 AM / January 13, 2020

Iran-backed militias step up their security

Iraq's powerful, Iran-backed Shiite militias have reportedly been upgrading security and changing their positions in the wake of the targeted killing of one of their senior commanders and an Iranian general last week.

Iraqi media say U.S. drones have increased flights over Iraq since the killing of Soleimani, and while the American officials describe their posture in Iraq as defensive, leaders of the militias that make up the so-called Popular Mobilization Units have been trying to mitigate the perceived risk. The U.S. strike that killed Soleimani also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of a PMU militia.

According to Iraqi outlets several senior PMU leaders have changed residences, vehicles and phone numbers and conducted reviews of their personal security measures. Some are even said to have changed their entire personal security teams. The militias have also reportedly been moving arms depots and camps to more residential areas.

Some of the PMU leaders are designated as terrorists by the U.S. government, and the Trump administration has not ruled out any further strikes against any commanders deemed to pose a threat to U.S. lives or interests.

Tucker Reals and Khaled Wassef

  Updated 4:58 PM / January 13, 2020

Damage at base shows Iran hit sleeping quarters

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams visited the main Iraqi military base that Iran attacked last week in retaliation for the Trump administration's killing of a senior Iranian commander.

The Iranians fired 16 ballistic missiles at two bases housing U.S. forces, the majority of them targeting the Al Asad Airbase in western Iraq, where about 1,500 U.S. coalition troops are based.

Inside an Iraqi air base attacked by Iran

One of the buildings hit contained sleeping quarters for the troops. U.S. forces had just minutes to take cover after being given a warning that Iranian missiles had been fired. There were no casualties.

There's been speculation - and even claims from Iranian officials - that the strikes deliberately missed U.S. forces to avoid further escalating the violence with the U.S., but a senior American military official with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq told CBS News that isn't true.

Based on where the missiles landed, the official said the Iranians were "shooting to kill." 

  Updated 7:30 AM / January 13, 2020

"We did not lie," insists Iranian regime

Iran's government on Monday denied there was any "cover-up" after the country's armed forces took four days to admit they had shot down the Ukrainian International Airlines flight over Tehran.

"In these sorrowful days, many criticisms were directed at relevant officials and authorities... some officials were even accused of lying and a cover-up but, in all honesty, that was not the case," senior government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a statement carried by Iran's state-controlled television.

Rabiei accused President Trump of shedding "crocodile tears" for expressing concern over the weekend for Iranian people demonstrating against their government's handling of the crisis. He claimed the Iranian populace understood that Mr. Trump was the real enemy for ordering the killing of the Islamic Republic's revered commander Qassem Soleimani.

Defense Secretary Esper didn't see specific threats against U.S. embassies

"The point is that we did not lie," Rabiei insisted, adding that the Trump administration should bear some blame for the crisis for "spreading the shadow of war over Iran." 

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 5:22 AM / January 13, 2020

Iran denies firing on protesters

Videos sent to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran and later verified by The Associated Press show a crowd of demonstrators near Azadi, or Freedom, Square fleeing as a tear gas canister landed among them. People cough and sputter while trying to escape the fumes, with one woman calling out in Farsi: "They fired tear gas at people! Azadi Square. Death to the dictator!"

Another video shows a woman being carried away in the aftermath as a blood trail can be seen on the ground. Those around her cry out that she has been shot by live ammunition in the leg.

"Oh my God, she's bleeding nonstop!" one person shouts. Another shouts: "Bandage it!"

Photos and video after the incident show pools of blood on the sidewalk.

Tehran's police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, denied his officers had opened fire.

"Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance," Iranian media quoted Rahimi as saying. "Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been agenda of the police forces of the capital."

Associated Press

  6:59 PM / January 12, 2020

Trump "couldn't care less" if Iran chooses to negotiate or not

President Trump said in a tweet on Sunday that he "couldn't care less" if Iran chooses to negotiate with the United States. Mr. Trump then said Iran should not develop nuclear weapons and reiterated his previous warning about killing protesters.

By Jordan Freiman
  11:55 AM / January 12, 2020

Schiff: Trump "fudging" intelligence to justify Soleimani strike

Schiff accuses Trump of "fudging" intelligence on threat from Iran

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, accused President Trump and top administration officials of "fudging" intelligence to justify the strike that killed Soleimani.

"When you hear the president out there on Fox, he is fudging the intelligence," Schiff said Sunday on "Face the Nation," referencing an interview the president conducted with Fox News last week. "When you hear the [defense] secretary say, 'Well, that wasn't what the intelligence said, but that's my personal belief,' he is fudging. When Secretary Pompeo was on your show last week and made the claim that the intelligence analysis was that taking Soleimani out would improve our security and leaving him in would make us less safe, that is also fudging. That is not an intelligence conclusion, that's Pompeo's personal opinion."

Read more here.

By Stefan Becket
  Updated 11:13 AM / January 12, 2020

Esper "didn't see" specific evidence of Iranian threat to 4 embassies

Mark Esper says he "didn't see" specific evidence showing Iran planned to strike 4 U.S. embassies

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he "didn't see" specific evidence that top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was planning attacks on four U.S. embassies, but said he believed such attacks would have occurred.

"The president didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said was he believed," Esper said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "I didn't see one, with regard to four embassies. What I'm saying is that I shared the president's view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassy is the most prominent display of American presence in a country."

Mr. Trump told Fox News in an interview Friday that "it would've been four embassies" that were attacked, seemingly revealing more information about the nature of the threat.

Read more here. 

By Melissa Quinn
  Updated 9:01 AM / January 12, 2020

Trump warns Iran not to crack down on demonstrators

As protests continued in Tehran over the Iranian downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet, President Trump warned the country's leaders not to use lethal force against demonstrators:

By Stefan Becket
  Updated 8:50 AM / January 12, 2020

British ambassador arrested in Iran, U.S. State Department says

The U.S. State Department said Saturday that Rob Macaire, the British ambassador to Iran, was arrested. "This violates the Vienna Convention, which the regime has a notorious history of violating. We call on the regime to formally apologize to the UK for violating his rights and to respect the rights of all diplomats," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeted.

The arrest occurred during protests in Tehran, according to BBC News

In a statement to BBC News, U.K. foreign secretary Dominic Raab said "the arrest of our ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law. The Iranian government is at a crossroads moment. It can continue its march toward pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards."

By Caroline Linton
  9:22 AM / January 11, 2020

Trump calls Democrats "unhinged" and said they have defended "the life of Qassem Soleimani"

In a tweet Saturday morning, President Trump accused Democrats of "defending the life of Qassem Soleimani." The House voted on a war powers resolution to prohibit Mr. Trump from engaging in hostilities with Iran without congressional approval on Thursday.

By Grace Segers
  Updated 8:21 AM / January 11, 2020

Iran's Guard takes responsibility for downing of jetliner

Iran's Revolutionary Guard acknowledged on Saturday it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger jet in the hours after Iran launched missile attacks on two Iraqi military bases housing American troops earlier this week. The head of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division said his unit accepts "full responsibility."

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said on state TV that forces were on high alert, and that an officer mistook the plane for a hostile missile and made the "bad decision" to open fire, The Associated Press reported.

In a tweet on Friday evening, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani apologized for this "unforgivable mistake."

"Armed Forces' internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake," Rouhani wrote.

  Updated 8:50 AM / January 12, 2020

Iran says it "unintentionally" shot down Ukrainian airplane

Iran announced that its military "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible.
 
A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a "hostile target" after it turned toward a "sensitive military center" of the Revolutionary Guard. The military was at its "highest level of readiness," it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States.
 
"In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit," the statement said. It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such "mistakes" in the future.

It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted. —The Associated Press

  Updated 7:18 PM / January 10, 2020

Trump officials didn't tell Senate that Soleimani plot allegedly targeted four embassies

Administration officials who briefed senators this week on the U.S. strike that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani did not tell the senators that there was also an attempt the same day to target the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leader in Yemen, two sources familiar with the briefing told CBS News.

Senators were also not apprised of a plot to target four U.S. embassies in the region, which President Trump disclosed during an interview to air Friday evening with Fox News' Laura Ingraham. Mr. Trump also told Ingraham that the embassy in Baghdad was "probably" among the targets.

The sources said based on what was relayed in the briefing, a plot against a U.S. embassy or embassies would be plausible. But this was not specifically disclosed by the briefers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire briefed the House and Senate on Wednesday.

By Arden Farhi
  Updated 6:29 PM / January 10, 2020

U.S. unsuccessfully targeted Iranian official

The U.S. military unsuccessfully attempted to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Yemen on the same day it hit Soleimani, defense officials told CBS News. 

In addition to being involved in the Café Milano plot, Shahlai was involved in the killing of five American soldiers in Karbala. The Washington Post first reported on the failed attempt.

By David Martin
  Updated 1:16 PM / January 10, 2020

Iraqi leader asks U.S. to prepare "mechanisms" for a withdrawal

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has asked the Trump administration to send a delegation to Baghdad to "lay down the mechanisms for implementing" America's military withdrawal. In a statement posted on his official Facebook page, Mahdi said Iraq was "keen to keep the best relations" with its allies but noted the parliament's decision that the U.S. should "safely withdraw troops from Iraq."

The prime minister did not give a timeline, but according to the statement, he asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the phone Thursday "to send delegates to Iraq to lay down the mechanisms for implementing (the) Iraqi Parliament's decision."

Mahdi also told Pompeo "that there are American forces entering Iraq and American drones flying in its skies without permission from the Iraqi government, and that this constitutes a breach of the agreements in place."

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:58 PM / January 10, 2020

Ambassador says Iran intended to "send a message" with missile strike

Iran's U.N. ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told CBS News his country is willing to step back from escalating tensions with the U.S. That stood in contrast to comments from Revolutionary Guard Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who called this week's strikes on two bases where hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq are stationed the first in a series.

Ravanchi said the attack against the Iraqi bases was intended to avoid casualties and to "send a message" because Iran believes the strike that killed Qassem Soleimani originated at one of the bases, an allegation not confirmed by U.S. intelligence.

Ravanchi would not commit to a change in behavior from Iran-backed proxies. "Iran has said that as long as the U.S. does not commit any new aggression against Iran, Iran will not retaliate, but we cannot be responsible for the action of other groups in the region and beyond," he said.

By Pamela Falk
  Updated 12:03 PM / January 10, 2020

Pompeo and Mnuchin announce new Iran sanctions

In response to Iran's missile launch on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, which resulted in no reports of casualties, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced new sanctions on Iran and Iranian officials. The sanctions, Mnuchin said, will be both primary and secondary.

The U.S. has already imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, sanctions Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Friday are working, despite continued aggressive behavior from Iran. Specifically, Mnuchin announced 17 various sanctions meant to cut into Iran's economy and sanctions against eight additional Iranian officials the U.S. believes were involved in the missile launch earlier this week.

"We want Iran to behave simply like a normal nation," Pompeo said, insisting the U.S. believes these sanctions will encourage that behavior. The president had announced there would be additional sanctions earlier this week but hadn't elaborated on that announcement.

By Kathryn Watson
  Updated 12:08 PM / January 10, 2020

Trump calls response to U.S. Embassy attack "the anti-Benghazi"

President Trump rallies supporters in Ohio

At a rally Thursday night, President Trump called the response to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in late December "the anti-Benghazi." He was referring to the storming of an American compound in the Libyan city of Benghazi in 2012 in which Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador, was killed.

"We got there very early, we saw what was happening — I saw what was happening, I said what's all that about," Mr. Trump said about the recent attack in Baghdad. "And that was going to be another Benghazi. Had they broken through the final panels of glass, they were breaking it, breaking it. Had they gotten through, we would have had either hundreds of dead people or hundreds of hostages. That wasn't going to happen. And I called up our great generals, I said get them over there now."

He said Soleimani ordered the assault on the embassy in Baghdad.

- Caroline Linton and Sarah Lynch Baldwin

  7:24 PM / January 9, 2020

White House says House vote "completely misguided"

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Thursday the House vote is "completely misguided" and said Mr. Trump "has the right and duty to protect this nation and our citizens from terrorism. That's what he continues to do, and the world is safer for it."

"This House resolution tries to undermine the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to prevent terrorist activity by Iran and its proxies, and attempts to hinder the president's authority to protect America and our interests in the region from the continued threats," Gidley said. 

Gidley called the strike that killed Soleimani "the right course of action." Gidley said the strike is authorized under Mr. Trump's "constitutional powers as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive as well as the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force."

By Caroline Linton
  Updated 1:23 PM / January 10, 2020

House passes War Powers Resolution

House votes to limit Trump's ability to act against Iran

The House passed the War Powers Resolution, which seeks to limit Mr. Trump's military actions against Iran. The vote passed mostly along party lines, with three Republicans joining the Democrats to vote in favor and eight Democrats voting against. 

By Caroline Linton
  Updated 5:50 PM / January 9, 2020

House is voting on War Powers Resolution

The House is now voting on H.Con.Res 83, the War Powers Resolution. If passed, it would bar the president from using U.S. forces in Iran or against its government or military unless there was a declaration of war or other authorization by Congress.

Congress is debating about whether the resolution is binding. Democrats are citing the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which says Congress may require the president to withdraw U.S. forces with a concurrent resolution. Republicans are citing a 1983 Supreme Court case that says bills must be signed by the president or passed on a veto override to become law. 

By Caroline Linton
  5:06 PM / January 9, 2020

Pompeo spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdel-Mahdi on Thursday

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdel-Mahdi on Thursday, according to a readout of the call released by the White House. According to the readout, Pompeo "underscored that, as President Trump has said, the United States will do whatever it takes to protect the American and Iraqi people and defend our collective interests."

There was no mention of the Iraqi Parliament voting last week to remove the foreign military presence in the country.

The readout also said Pompeo repeated the U.S.' condemnation of the Iranian missile strikes onto Iraqi bases that host Iraqi, American and coalition forces. 

By Caroline Linton
  Updated 5:10 PM / January 9, 2020

Trudeau: Evidence indicates plane was shot down by Iranian missile

Trudeau: Evidence indicates plane shot down by Iranian missile

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference Thursday that evidence indicates a Ukranian jetliner that crashed Wednesday soon after takeoff from Tehran's airport was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.


"We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence," he said.

"This may well have been unintentional," he said.

Of the 176 people who were killed in the crash, at least 63 were Canadians.

Trudeau said the new information reinforces the need for a thorough investigation into the crash, which took place a few hours after Iran launched attacks against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops.

"Canadians have questions, and they deserve answers," he said. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
  Updated 1:40 PM / January 9, 2020

Trump: "We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy"

President Trump added a new piece of information to his administration's justification for the deadly strike that killed Soleimani, saying on Thursday, without providing evidence, "We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy."

He was presumably referring to the U.S. compound in Baghdad, which was the focus of angry protests by pro-Iranian demonstrators less than two weeks ago. 

"We also did it for other reasons that were very obvious," Mr. Trump continued. "Somebody died, one of our military people died, people were badly wounded just a week before. And we did it."  

The administration has claimed Soleimani was planning an "imminent" attack to kill Americans, but has declined to elaborate on specific plots or the intelligence underpinning their assertions, saying that doing so would compromise intelligence sources and methods.

Read more

By Kathryn Watson
  Updated 1:22 PM / January 9, 2020

U.S. officials confident Iran shot down passenger jet

U.S. officials are confident Iran shot down a Ukrainian jetliner in the hours after the Iranian missile attack on U.S. targets earlier this week, CBS News has learned.

U.S. intelligence picked up signals of the radar being turned on and satellite detected infrared blips of two missile launches, probably SA-15s, followed shortly by another infrared blip of an explosion. 

The current thinking is the plane, Ukraine International Flight 752, was mistakenly targeted, CBS News' Kris Van Cleave reports. 

President Trump said Thursday it could have been a mistake.

Federal officials were briefed on this intelligence Thursday morning. A source who was in the briefing said it appears missile components were found near the crash site, Van Cleave reports. 

The plane crashed in Iran Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.  

Read more 

  11:45 AM / January 9, 2020

Pelosi does not believe Soleimani's killing made U.S. safer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the U.S. airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani "provocative" and "disproportionate." She said "we must avoid war" and called the "cavalier attitude" of the Trump administration "stunning."

"I do not believe, in terms of what is in the public domain, that they have made the country safer by what they did, and that is what our responsibility is," she said Thursday at her weekly press conference. 

She said, "What happened, in the view of many of us, is not promoting peace, but an escalation."

Pelosi spoke hours before the House is scheduled to vote on a war powers resolution intended to limit President Trump's ability to take military action against Iran. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
  Updated 10:53 AM / January 9, 2020

Senior Iranian commander says attacks aimed to "strike the enemy's military machine"

A senior Iranian commander said Iran's missile attacks against military bases housing American troops in Iraq aimed to "strike the enemy's military machine," not kill, The Associated Press reports. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who is the head of the Revolutionary Guard's Aerospace Force, also said the attacks, in which no one was killed, marked the beginning of a string of attacks across the region, Iranian state television reported, according to Reuters. 
 
He said Iran simultaneously carried out a cyberattack against U.S. drone and plane navigation systems.

  Updated 10:15 AM / January 9, 2020

Relief in Tehran after Trump's speech

While Iran's military commanders are vowing to fight on with the goal of getting U.S. forces to leave the region, the headline in Tehran on Thursday was that — in the short term — the U.S. isn't planning another military strike. Residents went about their business feeling safer.

One resident, Caroline, told CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer she had been afraid of the prospect of an all-out war. Like millions of others in Iran, she listened to President Trump's speech on Wednesday very closely. She said she was relieved when he said there would not be any further American attack, and she "slept very well" after his remarks.

Mr. Trump indicated Wednesday he plans no further military response against Iran in a statement intended to lower tension in the Middle East. "The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it," Mr. Trump said. "We do not want to use it."

On Iranian state-run TV, the president's decision not to strike back was framed as a climb-down by the U.S., and a win for Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

  Updated 10:14 AM / January 9, 2020

Iranian commander vows "harsher revenge" against U.S.

A member of Iran's joint chiefs of staff vowed on Thursday there would be "harsher revenge" taken against the United States. Abdollah Araghi said Iran's Revolutionary Guard "will impose a harsher revenge on the enemy in the near future," according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

The general chosen to replace Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, also said Thursday he would follow the same path as his predecessor.

The messages show that the U.S. can't afford to let its guard down. They also highlight continued deep divisions inside Iranian society, CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports. Iran's political leaders said Wednesday the Islamic Republic had "concluded" its response to America's killing of Soleimani.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander warns of "future revenge"
  Updated 8:14 PM / January 8, 2020

Officials release more details about Iran missile attack

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley told reporters Wednesday that 16 short-range ballistic missiles were launched from three locations in Iran during Tuesday night's attack. Eleven of those missiles landed at Al Asad, one landed at Erbil, and the other four failed, they said. 

When asked about the theory that the Iranians were trying not to kill Americans — so that they could claim they retaliated without sparking further conflict — Milley said it was his opinion that the missiles were intended to kill soldiers at the bases. 

Esper also denied reports that the U.S. was warned of the attack by Iraq, which itself was warned by Iran. He said that instead, the U.S. warned Iraq of the attack, after its intelligence systems detected preparations for Iran's launch. 

Pentagon says 16 missiles were launched from 3 locations inside Iran
By David Martin
  Updated 7:21 PM / January 8, 2020

Iran letter to U.N. claims missile strikes were "self-defense"

Iran's U.N. ambassador sent a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council calling the missile strikes a "measured and proportionate" act of "self-defense." 
 
The letter states that the missile strikes were targeted at the military base where the attack against Iranian General Soleimani was launched, and said, "The operation was precise and targeted military objectives thus leaving no collateral damage to civilians and civilian assets in the area."
 
The letter comes as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said through a spokesperson that he is concerned about the impact the conflict between the U.S. and Iran could have on the people of Iraq. 
 
"It is our common duty to make every effort to avoid a war in the Gulf that the world cannot afford. We must not forget the terrible human suffering caused by war. As always, ordinary people pay the highest price," U.N. Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters. "For the Secretary-General, it is important that everyone respect the sovereignty and unity of Iraq."

By Pamela Falk
  Updated 6:57 PM / January 8, 2020

What Iran's citizens are hearing from state TV

News outlets in Iran on Wednesday talked up the country's Tuesday night missile launches and downplayed President Trump's announcement that there had been no casualties in the attack. 

Some local media still falsely claim that 80 Americans were killed. Hardliners are framing the U.S.'s decision to not retaliate for the strikes as backing down. 

But behind the talk, there's widespread relief in the country. Iran had made it clear that it wasn't seeking war, although Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the onus is now on the U.S. to stop it's "adventurism in the region."

By Elizabeth Palmer
  Updated 7:22 PM / January 8, 2020

Republican senator slams briefing on drone strike that killed Soleimani

Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah excoriated a briefing from top Trump administration officials on the targeted drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force. Lee called it the "worst briefing" he's received on a military issue in his nine years in the Senate.

Lee said it is "not acceptable" for officials from the executive branch to tell the Senate that they can't "debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran." 

"It's un-American, it's unconstitutional, and it's wrong," he added.

By Melissa Quinn
  Updated 7:23 PM / January 8, 2020

Pence says Americans are "safer today" after Soleimani's death

Pence says Americans can "rest easier" despite Iranian missile attacks

Vice President Mike Pence said he believes Americans are "safer today" after President Trump ordered a strike that killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani. Pence addressed fears of an increasing conflict with Iran during an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell.

"Everybody who's related to one of those soldiers stationed in the Middle East is worried. Are we safer now?" O'Donnell asked.

"I believe we are safer today than before President Trump ordered our military to take out Qassem Soleimani," Pence said.

"One might say that taking out Soleimani is like taking a baseball bat to a hornet's nest and those hornets are Iranian proxies. Proxy groups. Are you convinced that they won't come after Americans?" O'Donnell asked.

"Well, the challenge we face now is that Qassem Soleimani was in fact the primary leader of those Iranian sponsored militias across northern Iran and their influence in Syria as well, but we're sending a very clear message as we did with those five airstrikes to militia bases... that we will not tolerate violence," Pence said.

"But he didn't act alone. Did he act with the blessing of the Ayatollah? The supreme leader?" O'Donnell asked.

"There's no question," Pence said.

  Updated 6:22 PM / January 8, 2020

What are Iran's military capabilities?

Iran does not have nuclear weapons and insists it does not want to develop any. The Trump administration, however, says Iran does want to obtain a nuclear weapons capability and Mr. Trump has personally vowed not to let that happen. The direct military threat that Iran poses to the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East is with its conventional weapons. The missiles that hit the Iraqi bases on Tuesday night appear to have been small in scale relative to Iran's capability. 

Iran also has proxies around the Middle East — groups that are not officially part of the state apparatus but which work to advance Iran's interests and receive direct support from Tehran. These groups include the Badr Organization and Kataeb Hezbollah in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Syrian Hezbollah in Syria, and groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Gaza Strip.

By Haley Ott
  Updated 4:48 PM / January 8, 2020

Senate Democrats criticize briefing on Soleimani strike

Senate Democrats slammed a briefing held by top administration officials on last week's targeted strike that killed top Iranian military commander Qassam Soleimani, saying the information did not describe an "imminent threat" to U.S. troops and diplomats.

"I was deeply surprised at the lack of information presented by the administration regarding a specific imminent threat," Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said. "This appears to me to be a strike of choice by this administration, one that likely would've required congressional authorization beforehand."

Murphy told reporters the briefing lasted 75 minutes, leaving senators with "multiple questions unanswered." 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters only 15 of the 97 senators in attendance were able to ask questions of the administration officials before it ended. "We did not see a plan, a satisfying plan for the future," Schumer said, adding that "as the questions began to get tough, they walked out."

By Melissa Quinn
  Updated 7:23 PM / January 8, 2020

Pelosi: House will vote on war powers resolution Thursday

House to vote Thursday on war powers resolution

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that the House would vote on a war powers resolution Thursday that would limit President Trump's military actions regarding Iran. The legislation is sponsored by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a freshman Democrat, and will be considered in the Rules Committee on Wednesday night.

"Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the Administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward," Pelosi said in a statement. "Our concerns were not addressed by the President's insufficient War Powers Act notification and by the Administration's briefing today."

Pelosi also said the House may also soon consider legislation to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force in Iraq, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Congressman Ro Khanna's legislation to "prohibit funding for military action against Iran not authorized by Congress."

By Grace Segers
  Updated 4:45 PM / January 8, 2020

Picture shows Trump and Pence in White House Situation Room

The White House released a picture Wednesday that shows President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the White House Situation Room on Tuesday night. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, national security adviser Robert O'Brien and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are also seen in the photo.

By Alex Sundby
  Updated 2:51 PM / January 8, 2020

U.S. had "multiple hours" of warning before Iran attack, official says

A Defense official said Wednesday that the U.S. had "multiple hours" of warning of Iran's attack, plenty of time for troops to take shelter in bunkers. This warning came from a combination of satellites and signals and communications intercepts — the same systems that watch for North Korea's missile tests.

Most of Iran's missiles are liquid-fueled, which take longer to get ready for launch and are easier to spot. The actual launch is detected by infrared satellites, which can see the plumes and predict the trajectory.

U.S. intelligence started looking for signs of preparations for an attack on the military bases after receiving reports that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had told his national security council he wanted a direct attack by Iran on American interests.

By David Martin
  Updated 2:23 PM / January 8, 2020

No serious consideration given to preemptive Iran strike, official says

There was no serious consideration given to launching a preemptive strike to take out Iran's missiles before they were launched, according to a Defense official. The U.S. did not have the capability to shoot down the incoming missiles Tuesday night because there are no Patriot missile batteries in Iraq.

Until the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, the mission was to defeat ISIS, which has no ballistic missiles.

By David Martin
  Updated 2:03 PM / January 8, 2020

House Dems hedge on war powers resolution vote this week

House Democrats hedged on whether the lower chamber will vote this week on a measure intended to limit President Trump's military actions regarding Iran.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday the House would hold a vote this week on a war powers resolution following the targeted strike that killed Qassem Soleimani.

But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Wednesday, "You're going to see it as soon as we believe it is prepared to move forward on."

"It's going to be sooner rather than later," he said.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said at a weekly press conference a vote on the resolution was "an ongoing discussion as to the appropriate timing."

"There is no time frame, as I understand it, in terms of it absolutely taking place over the next day or two," he said.

- Melissa Quinn and Rebecca Kaplan

  Updated 12:56 PM / January 8, 2020

Trump: "As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon"

Addressing the nation for the first time after Iran's missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq, President Trump said he would not allow the Iranian regime to obtain nuclear weapons and indicated he was willing to de-escalate the situation in the Middle East. "As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon," Mr. Trump said.

He also slammed the Iran nuclear deal, from which the U.S. withdrew in 2018, and called on allies to leave it. "They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal," Mr. Trump said. He suggested that he would be willing to make a new deal with Iran "that makes the world safer."

He said "Iran can be a great country" if it stops sponsoring terrorism in the Middle East.

By Grace Segers
  Updated 12:55 PM / January 8, 2020

Trump announces fresh sanctions on Iran

President Trump announced Wednesday the U.S. will impose "powerful sanctions" on Iran, which will remain in place until the regime changes its behavior. He said no Americans were harmed in Tuesday night's attack and "only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases."

He said Iran appeared to be standing down.

Mr. Trump also touted increased military spending under his administration and called on NATO to help the U.S. in its diplomatic efforts with Iran.

He finished his remarks by speaking directly to the people of Iran. "We want you to have a future, and a great future, one that you deserve," he said. "The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it."

By Grace Segers
  Updated 10:52 AM / January 8, 2020

Top Republicans call for unity after Iran attacks Iraqi bases

Top House Republicans called for political unity Wednesday after Iran's retaliatory missile strikes against two Iraqi military bases that house U.S. troops, urging their Democratic counterparts to put partisanship aside to support President Trump.

"Hopefully during a time like this we can all come together, not as Republicans and Democrats, but as Americans who recognize that a brutal terrorist who killed hundreds of Americans and was planning to kill even more is gone from this planet because of the bold action of President Trump," House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana said at a weekly press conference. "It's time to be united in that."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California lauded Mr. Trump for taking action against Iran and said it was "very clear" he had to do so, especially following the death of an American contractor in an Iran-backed attack on a Iraqi military base last month.

"I think all of Congress should speak with one voice at moments like this to send a very clear message around the world that we defend Americans here and abroad," he said.  

By Melissa Quinn
  Updated 10:12 AM / January 8, 2020

McConnell: "We must remain vigilant in the face of serious threats posed by Iran"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the strikes by Iran in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying he was "troubled but not surprised" by Iran's actions.

"We must remain vigilant in the face of serious threats posed by Iran," McConnell said. He condemned the Obama administration for not doing more to stop Iran from developing its long-range ballistic missile program. He also said that American interests were not the only ones harmed by Iran's actions.

"Last night was another stark reminder that Iran and its proxies have been a cancer on Iraq's sovereignty and Iraq's politics for a long time," McConnell added.

McConnell said he spoke to Mr. Trump last night, and was grateful for the president's "patience and prudence" in determining how to respond.

"I hope Iran's leaders do not miscalculate by questioning our collective will," McConnell said, taking a shot at Democrats for questioning the wisdom of striking Qassem Soleimani.

"The notion that our administration is to blame for Iranian aggression...That's nonsense, utter nonsense," he said.

By Grace Segers
  Updated 9:42 AM / January 8, 2020

A "carefully calibrated" Iranian strike

It appears Iran launched a "carefully calibrated" attack on the Iraqi bases, said retired Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a CBS News military and homeland security analyst.

He said on "CBS This Morning" that the ballistic missiles Iran used appear to have been fairly accurate weapons, suggesting that if they had wanted to inflict severe casualties, they could have.

Retired Admiral: Iran attack was "carefully calibrated"

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin said there were still no reports of casualties, and there was speculation among Pentagon officials – only speculation, he stressed — that the Iranians could have deliberately aimed to miss U.S. troops on the ground. 

Martin noted that there was enough of a warning of the missile launch to give American troops time to take cover.

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 10:26 AM / January 8, 2020

The ball is back in Trump's court

President Trump's decision about how to respond to the attack is likely to determine whether the current crisis with Iran keeps escalating toward war or calms down.

Just hours before the missile strikes, Mr. Trump issued another warning to Tehran, saying that "if Iran does anything that they shouldn't be doing, they're going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly."

But it was still unclear early Wednesday whether the president would deem the seemingly ineffective attack on the Iraqi bases as warranting a strong military response.

No sign yet how U.S. will respond to Iranian attack on American forces

CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang reported that Mr. Trump was at the White House late Tuesday night with his national security team, including Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien.

Pompeo has been a main voice in the administration's defense of the strike that killed Soleimani and has long advocated for aggressive action in the region. He helped champion what he calls the "strongest maximum pressure campaign in history" against Iran.

Jiang said Mr. Trump now finds himself walking a fine line with his political base; he campaigned on a promise to get U.S. troops out of "forever wars," and thus far his administration has yet to provide evidence to support his decision to escalate a conflict with Iran.

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 6:33 AM / January 8, 2020

Iraqi leader says Iran alerted them about strikes

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's office said Wednesday that Iran had notified Baghdad that it was taking revenge against the U.S. killing of an Iranian general with missile strikes targeting American forces inside Iraq, as the missile salvo from Iran began or shortly before. 

"Shortly after midnight on Wednesday 8/1/2020, we received an official oral message from the Islamic Republic of Iran that the Iranian response to the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani had begun, or (was) about to begin shortly, and that the strikes would be limited to sites where U.S. forces are deployed, but without identifying these sites," the statement posted to the prime minister's Facebook page said.

"Simultaneously, the American side contacted us as the missiles were falling on the wing of the American forces at Ain al-Assad base in Anbar, Harir base in Erbil, and in other locations," the statement from Mahdi's office said. 

The statement concluded by saying Mahdi was reaching out to his own subordinates and external partners to try to contain the situation and avert a full-scale conflict.  

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 10:07 AM / January 8, 2020

Ayatollah touts "slap" to U.S.

Iran's supreme leader touted his country's missile strike against Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops as a "slap" to the Americans in retaliation for the U.S. strike that killed a senior Iranian commander last week. But Ayatollah Ali Khameni said Iran's real revenge would be forcing the U.S. to leave the region.

"They (America) were struck with such a slap last night," Khamenei told a large crowd in Tehran chanting the familiar "death to America" refrain. 

"Military action like this is not sufficient," he said. "What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region."  

What to expect next from Iran

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani echoed the supreme leader's comment, saying Iran's "real revenge and the ultimate response by regional nations is when America is expelled from this region and its hand of aggression is cut off forever."

After a meeting of Iran's cabinet on Wednesday morning CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer asked Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif what it would take to start de-escalating the current crisis.

"It is up to the United States to now come to its senses and stop its adventurism in this region," Zarif said.

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 10:09 AM / January 8, 2020

Still no reports of casualties

There were conflicting reports early Tuesday about where the Iranian missiles that targeted an airbase used by U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil actually landed, but there were still no reports of casualties from that attack or the more significant barrage that hit a base in western Iraq.

CBS News' team on the ground said one missile appeared to have landed inside the perimeter of Erbil's international airport, where the U.S. air base is located, but local media said it failed to explode. Local Kurdish authorities would not permit CBS News to get close to this missile.

At least one other missile landed near the town of Bardarash, about 30 miles from Erbil, but caused no damage. There were reports that a possible third missile fell about 12 miles from Erbil airport, but it was unclear whether it had exploded.

Iraq Iran Soleimani
A file photo shows the Ain al-Asad U.S. air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert.  Nasser Nasser/AP

The Iraqi military said all of its troops were safe after 17 missiles hit the Ain al-Asad base, including two that failed to explode.  

By Tucker Reals
  3:28 AM / January 8, 2020

U.K. condemns attack on bases

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Wednesday that the U.K. condemned the Iranian attack on military bases in Iraq, noting that British forces use the facilities along with their American coalition counterparts.

"We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation," Raab said in a statement distributed by the Foreign Office.

He warned that "a war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh (ISIS) and other terrorist groups."

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 10:10 AM / January 8, 2020

Trump on Iran attacks: "All is well!"

In his first tweet since Iran launched the attacks, President Trump assured the public that "All is well!"

"Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq," Mr. Trump wrote. "Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning." 

By Victoria Albert
  Updated 10:15 AM / January 8, 2020

Graham: "This was an act of war" from Iran

Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch supporter of the president and an outspoken hardliner on Iran, called the ballistic missile strike by Iran "an act of war ... by any reasonable definition" and said Mr. Trump has "all the authority he needs under Article II to respond."

Article II of the Constitution names the president as "commander in chief" of the armed forces, although Article I states that the power to declare war resides with Congress. 

Speaking to Fox News anchor Sean Hannity on Tuesday, Graham also said he spoke to Mr. Trump on the phone Tuesday evening, and he had a message for the Iranian regime: "Your fate is in your own hands in terms of the regime's economic viability. If you continue this crap, you're going to wake up one day out of the oil business."

Graham said the world just learned that "President Trump can go from zero to 60 pretty fast."  

By Grace Segers
  Updated 10:17 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran's foreign minister: "We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves"

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Twitter Tuesday that the country "took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense." He added that "we do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."

Zarif's defense of Iran's attack cited "Article 51 of the U.N. Charter." CBS News' Pamela Falk says Zarif was referring to Chapter VII of the U.N.'s founding document, which states that a nation has an inherent right to use force in self defense if an armed attack occurs. 

Zarif justified the attack by saying it targeted the base from which the attack against Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani was launched. 

Zarif's remarks, saying Iran does not seek an escalation but will defend itself, echoed comments made by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper before the Tuesday night missile attack. He said the U.S. was not looking to start a war with Iran, but that it was prepared to finish one.

Analyzing the diplomatic response after missile attacks in Iraq
By Victoria Albert
  Updated 10:19 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran missile attack "crosses a red line"

The ballistic rocket attack by Iran on two Iraqi military bases "crosses a red line" for the U.S. and is likely to lead to retaliation, CBS News correspondent David Martin said on CBSN.

"And the question really is: is the retaliatory strike going to be limited in scope to just the missile base, for instance, which fired these missiles? Or is it going to be a much broader attack which goes after the headquarters of the Iranian revolutionary guards, for instance, since that is the military unit that launched the strikes?" Martin said.

The Pentagon has not yet released any reports on casualties or damage caused by the strikes. However, Martin said the Trump administration might take these attacks as a justification for further conflict, even if there are no U.S. casualties.

The U.S. has been warning for days that Iran would be held responsible for any attack against American interests, said Martin.  

"I think the red line has been crossed, regardless of whether there were American casualties. This was a direct attack on U.S. troops. That's a cause for war. If U.S. troops were killed or injured, I think that would increase the scope of what the U.S. plans to do in retaliation," Martin said.

By Grace Segers
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

FAA issues flight restrictions over parts of the Middle East

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued flight restrictions that "prohibit U.S. civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman." 

"The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East," the organization wrote. "We continue coordinating with our national security partners and sharing information with U.S. air carriers and foreign civil aviation authorities." 

By Victoria Albert
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Trump will not address the nation Tuesday

President Trump will not address the nation Tuesday on the missile strikes targeting the Iraqi military bases, two senior administration officials told CBS News. — Fin Gomez and Major Garrett

  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

1,500 U.S. and coalition forces housed at Al Asad

The Al Asad airbase houses about 1,500 U.S. and coalition forces. The base was already on high-alert before the attack and paused their operation against ISIS several days ago fearing a revenge attack by Iran.

By Justin Carissimo
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran has largest ballistic arsenal in Middle East

"Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic arsenal in the Middle East, and a substantial inventory of close-range ballistic missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, and medium-range ballistic missiles that can strike targets throughout the region up to 2,000 kilometers from Iran's borders," according to an assessment in November 2019 by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. 

"Tehran is also a major proliferator of ballistic missile technology to regional state actors and proxy groups," the assessment said. "Iran continues to attempt to increase the lethality, reliability and accuracy of its missile force." 

By Olivia Gazis
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Trump briefed on attacks

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that the White House is "aware" of the reports and that President Trump has been briefed. Vice President Mike Pence has also been briefed, his press secretary said on Twitter

Mr. Trump and Melania toured Al Asad, one of the bases targeted in the attack, during a surprise Christmas visit to troops in 2018. It was Mr. Trump's first trip to Iraq and his first visit to a combat zone as commander-in-chief. 

US-IRAQ-POLITICS-TRUMP-diplomacy
President Trump greets members of the U.S. military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26, 2018. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty
By Victoria Albert
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps claims responsibility for Al Asad attack

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a unit of Iran's military, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement Tuesday evening. 

"The brave soldiers of IRGC's aerospace unit have launched a successful attack with tens of ballistic missiles on Al Assad military base in the name of martyr Gen. Qasem Soleimani," the group said. 

Iran claims responsibility for strikes at Iraqi bases
By Victoria Albert
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Pelosi and Schumer notified of strike

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was informed of the rocket attacks when a note was brought in during a House Democratic meeting. Pelosi informed the assembled members and said they should pray for the American men and women in the military, according to Representative Debbie Dingell.

Pelosi's spokesman also tweeted that she spoke with Vice President Mike Pence.

".@SpeakerPelosi returned a phone call to @VP at 6:34 p.m. tonight after her required presiding over the House at 6:30 p.m," her spokesman, Drew Hammill, tweeted. "The Vice President briefed the Speaker on the Iranian attacks on facilities housing U.S. troops in Iraq."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer received a call from Pence at 6:15 p.m., a spokesperson for the senator said.

map-missiles-launched-today-iran
CBS News
By Rebecca Kaplan
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Trump says he likes "to obey the law" when asked about Iranian cultural sites

When asked whether he was still considering targeting Iranian cultural sites at a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday, President Trump said he liked to "obey the law."  

"They're allowed to kill our people, they're allowed to maim our people, they're allowed to blow up everything that we have, and there's nothing that stops them. And we are, according to various laws, supposed to be very careful with their cultural heritage. And you know what? If that's what the law is, I like to obey the law," Mr. Trump said. 

"But think of it — they kill our people, they blow up our people, and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions. But I'm ok with it. It's ok with me," he added. "I will say this: If Iran does anything that they shouldn't be doing, they're going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly."  

Mr. Trump's comments come after he appeared to threaten Iran's cultural sites in a tweet on Saturday. The director general of the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, said Monday that both Tehran and Washington had signed a 1972 convention obliging states not to undertake "any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly the cultural and natural heritage" of other states.

By Victoria Albert
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Biden says the only way out of Iran crisis is diplomacy

Joe Biden says the only way out of Iran crisis is diplomacy

Former Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden delivered remarks in New York on Tuesday amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran following the airstrike that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

Biden criticized President Trump for having "no strategy" and "no endgame." He said that the president's "constant mistakes" and poor decision-making have left the U.S. with limited options.

The former vice president argued that the only way out of the Iran crisis is through diplomacy.

"No one wants war," he said, adding that it would take hard work to make sure the U.S. doesn't end up there "by accident."

The remarks gave Biden the chance to flex his foreign-policy chops at a time when the U.S. is bracing for possible retaliation from Iran following Soleimani's death.

  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Pentagon chief says attack Soleimani was planning was "days" away

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said an attack General Qassem Soleimani was planning against Americans was expected to happen within days, not weeks, of last week's drone strike. "I think it's more fair to say days, for sure," Esper told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The administration justified killing Soleimani by saying he posed an imminent threat to Americans, but no specific details have been released about the attack he was plotting. Esper told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin the U.S. "should expect" Iran to retaliate for the drone strike in some way.

"We're not seeking war with Iran," Esper said. "I think what happens next depends on them … we're prepared for any contingency."

Esper said the U.S. has been watching recent movements by Iran's military, but he wouldn't go into more detail. "We watch them very closely," he said. "We see their movements. I don't want to get more into that because it starts to get into intelligence issues."

By Alex Sundby
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran's military displaying "heightened state of readiness," U.S. defense official says

A U.S. defense official called Iranian military movements "very troubling." Iran has not yet moved its ballistic missiles into firing position, but its military has increased its ability to move on short notice.

There is "a wide range of activities of a heightened state of readiness … that indicate Iran is considering going forward with an attack, most likely against American forces," the official said.

By David Martin
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Death toll in stampede raised to at least 56

The death toll in the stampede at General Qassem Soleimani's funeral has increased to at least 56 people. State TV reported the increase, with 213 injured, citing Pirhossein Koulivand, head of Iran's emergency medical services.

There was no information as to what had set off the stampede. Online videos showed people lying apparently lifeless, their faces covered by clothing. Emergency crews performed CPR on others as people wailed in the background, crying out to God.

The stampede took place in Kerman, Soleimani's hometown, as the procession began, said the semi-official Fars and ISNA news agencies, citing Koulivand. Soleimani's burial was later delayed, with no new time given.

- Associated Press

  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Pompeo defends killing of Soleimani

Pompeo questioned about strike that killed Iranian general Soleimani

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued Tuesday leading the Trump administration's defense of the targeted missile strike that killed senior Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. He insisted that Mr. Trump was right to order the killing and sarcastically dismissed any suggestion that Soleimani might have been in Iraq for peaceful purposes.

"Is there any history that would indicate that it was remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order, Qassem Soleimani, had traveled to Baghdad for the idea of conducting a peace mission?" Pompeo asked reporters at the State Department. "We know that wasn't true." 

Pompeo warned that if Iran were to make another "bad choice," he was confident Mr. Trump would respond "as he did last week, in a decisive, serious manner."

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

U.S. military trainers heading out of Iraq

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said Tuesday that the Trump administration and its partners in the transatlantic military alliance "remain committed to the #NATO training mission in Iraq and the fight against ISIS" in the face of increasing pressure from Iraqi politicians to withdraw U.S. forces.

America's counter-ISIS operations have been halted in Iraq and all forces refocused to defend against any Iranian retaliation for the U.S. killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last week. A senior U.S. official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin that while training operations have been suspended, the U.S. personnel carrying out that mission were being moved out of Iraq to Kuwait.  

The official said the operational headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq would remain in the country, and noted that some of the trainers being moved out of the country were being replaced with soldiers deployed this week from the Army's 82nd Airborne division based at Fort Bragg.

Hutchison said in a tweet that the U.S. would "continue to support a safe & prosperous future for the Iraqi people and we look forward to resuming NATO's on-the-ground training with Iraqi forces once the situation permits." 

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

"Chaos" and pride for families of deploying troops

CBS News correspondent Chip Reid has spoken with two women whose partners are among the 3,000 additional U.S. forces being deployed to the Middle East to protect against any revenge attacks by Iran or its proxies.

Military families react to new troop deployments

Reid said the family members of troops serving in the Army's 82nd Airborne division at Fort Bragg know they always have to be ready to deploy in less than 18 hours. It means a lot of stress for the loved ones, but also a lot of pride in what they do for their country.

Rachelle Hertle and her husband Sergeant Alexander Hertle were visiting family in Ohio when he got the call to head to the Middle East a few days ago.

She said it sparked "chaos."

"The previous two deployments were all planned, and so we had time to get ready. This one was, this one threw us for a loop," she said.

"I cannot imagine leaving my children, and I know that it breaks his heart," she said, tearing up. "But this is what we decided as a family that we would do, that we would be a military family."

  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Ayatollah wants direct attack on U.S. interests

A senior U.S. official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin on Tuesday that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered a direct attack on American interests in retaliation for the airstrike that killed his top military commander and friend Qassem Soleimani.

The official said the U.S. military was "extremely concerned" that the retaliation could come quickly. As Martin reported on Monday, American officials believe the next 24 hours or so, following Soleimani's burial, could reveal whether Iran intends to make good on its threats to retaliate. 

Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Rouhani pray near the coffin of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in Tehran
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (center left) pray in Tehran on January 6, 2020 near the coffin of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani. OFFICIAL PRESIDENT'S WEBSITE/Reuters

Asked by CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer on Tuesday when the Iranian response would come, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would only say that his country would retaliate at the time of its choosing.

The primary concern remains Iran's ballistic missiles, officials have told Martin. As of Monday evening those weapons had not been moved into firing positions, but the alert status was raised so they were prepared to move and could be fired in substantial numbers within 24 hours. Moving them could also mean they are simply being dispersed as a defensive measure, Martin noted. 

American forces in Iraq, and their allies in that country, Israel and across the region are all easily within reach of Iran's missiles.  

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Stampede delays burial of slain general

A deadly stampede at the funeral ceremony for slain general Qassem Soleimani forced officials in Iran to postpone his burial on Tuesday. 

"Unfortunately as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions," Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of Iran's emergency medical services, said earlier. At least 40 people were killed and about 200 injured according to Iran's official state media.

In delaying Soleimani's burial, authorities cited concerns about the massive crowd that had gathered, the semi-official ISNA news agency said. No date was announced for the rescheduled burial.

— CBS/AP

  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran says it will retaliate against "legitimate targets"

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer on Tuesday that his country would retaliate for the U.S. strike that killed a top Iranian general, but he said that "unlike Trump" has threatened to do, the Islamic Republic would respond in a proportionate manner "against legitimate targets."

Iran foreign minister: Soleimani killing was "cowardly terrorist operation" by U.S.

Zarif would not tell Palmer what constituted, in the minds of Iran's leaders, a legitimate target, nor when Iran would launch its retaliation.

The U.S.-educated diplomat blasted the Trump administration as "a regime that has no respect for international law, threatens to commit war crimes — attacking cultural sites, which is a war crime."

It was a reaction to Mr. Trump's threat over the weekend to attack 52 sites identified as targets inside Iran should the country retaliate for the U.S. airstrike that killed Major General Qassem Soleimani on Friday. Mr. Trump has insisted that the U.S. would be within its rights to strike "cultural sites" in Iran.

Zarif said the U.S. killing of Soleimani was "an act of war done in a terrorist, cowardly operation, and Iran will take an appropriate response... Action by the U.S. has consequences that will happen, and I believe it has already started."

He pointed to the Iraqi parliament's work on legislation that would force American troops to withdraw from the country as evidence of the first consequence of Mr. Trump's "maximum pressure" policy on Iran: 'Maximum pressure is dead, as is the U.S. presence in our region."   

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Dozens killed in stampede at Soleimani funeral

Iranian state television said 32 people were killed and about 190 more injured in a stampede that erupted at a funeral procession for a general slain in a U.S. airstrike. 

Iran Soleimani
Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone strike on Friday, in the city of Kerman, Iran, on January 7, 2020. Erfan Kouchari/AP

The TV said the stampede erupted in Kerman, the hometown of Gen. Qassem Soleimani where the procession was underway on Tuesday.

A procession in Tehran on Monday drew over 1 million people in the Iranian capital, crowding both main thoroughfares and side streets in Tehran. 

— The Associated Press  

  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran threatens to "set ablaze" U.S. allies

The leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guard threatened on Tuesday to "set ablaze" places supported by the United States over the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike last week, sparking cries from the crowd of supporters of "Death to Israel!"

Hossein Salami made the pledge before a crowd of thousands gathered in a central square in Kerman, the hometown of the slain Gen. Qassem Soleimani. His vow mirrored the demands of top Iranian officials - from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to others - as well as supporters across the Islamic Republic, demanding retaliation against America for a slaying that's drastically raised tensions across the Middle East.

Mourners in Kerman dressed in black carried posters bearing the image of Soleimani, a man whose slaying prompted Iran's supreme leader to weep over his casket on Monday as a crowd said by police to be in the millions filled Tehran streets. Although there was no independent estimate, aerial footage and Associated Press journalists suggested a turnout of at least 1 million, and the throngs were visible on satellite images of Tehran taken Monday.

The outpouring of grief was an unprecedented honor for a man viewed by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard's expeditionary Quds Force.

— The Associated Press

  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Firm guarding U.S. diplomats in Baghdad could go bankrupt

A defense firm that provides security services to diplomats entering and exiting the U.S. Embassy in Iraq is nearing bankruptcy, according to a new report from credit ratings firm Moody's. 

Moody's said the contractor, Constellis Holdings, could enter court supervision by early February, although a bankruptcy isn't assured. The company, which has piled on debt over the past decade and now has liabilities of more than $1 billion, missed a debt payment on December 31, putting it in default, according to both Moody's and credit rater Standard & Poor's. 

Although Constellis doesn't guard the U.S. Embassy facility in Baghdad, it does provide security for diplomats and others entering and exiting the building. The status of its contract with the embassy in Iraq hasn't changed, according to a person close to the company. Constellis offers similar protection services in 30 countries around the world to governments and private businesses.   

"Constellis plans to continue to operate our business, execute our business strategy and meet our obligations to our stakeholders," a company spokesperson said in a statement to CBS Moneywatch.

By Stephen Gandel
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Esper says U.S. military has "no plans to leave" Iraq

In a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper responded to reports that the U.S. command in Iraq had informed its Iraqi counterparts of plans to withdraw from the country.

Numerous media outlets reported an unsigned letter purporting to come from the U.S. commander in Iraq informing the Iraqis of the military's plans to prepare for "onward movement" out of the country. The letter said the move was pursuant to a resolution by the Iraqi Parliament calling for the U.S. to leave.

But Esper categorically denied the U.S. planned to withdraw.

"There has been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq. Period," he said. "We've issued no plans to leave."

Esper said he doesn't know where the letter originated, but said he read it and called it "inconsistent with where we are right now."

Soon after Esper made that statement, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley returned to the briefing room and told reporters that he'd heard from CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie, who told him the letter was a draft being circulated for input, including from the Iraqis. Milley also said the letter discussed a repositioning of troops, not a withdrawal. 

By Stefan Becket
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

U.S. officials to brief congressional leaders Tuesday

Administration officials will brief congressional leaders on Tuesday about the strike that took out Soleimani, with additional sessions for all lawmakers set for Wednesday, sources familiar with the matter tell CBS News.

Tuesday's briefing will include the so-called "Gang of Eight" — leaders from both parties in the House and Senate, and the chairs and ranking members of the two intelligence committees. 

Wednesday's briefings will be open to all members from both chambers and will be conducted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley and CIA Director Gina Haspel.

Democrats have criticized the administration for not notifying congressional leaders about Friday's airstrike in advance and for failing to brief lawmakers sooner.

By Olivia Gazis
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran's president: "Never threaten the Iranian nation"

Hassan Rouhani, president of the Islamic Republic, responded to President Trump's threat to target 52 sites if Iran retaliates for the Soleimani strike. Mr. Trump said the number was a reference to 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for 444 days between 1979 and 1981, after the revolution.

Rouhani issued his response on Twitter, with a warning to "never threaten the Iranian nation":

Rouhani's reference to 290 and IR655 is a reference to Iran Air Flight 655, a passenger jet that was shot down by U.S. missiles over the Persian Gulf in 1988. All 290 people on board were killed. 

The U.S. acknowledged the incident as a "terrible human tragedy" and agreed to pay $131.8 million in a settlement with Iran before the International Court of Justice in 1998.

By Stefan Becket
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

U.N. secretary general warns of "profound risk of miscalculation"

At the United Nations, Secretary General António Guterres spoke to reporters about the escalating tensions in Iran and Iraq, although he did not mention either by name.

"The New Year has begun with our world in turmoil," the U.N. chief said. "Geopolitical tensions are at their highest level this century. And this turbulence is escalating."

"This cauldron of tensions is leading more and more countries to take unpredicted decisions with unpredictable consequences and a profound risk of miscalculation," he added, warning of a deepening of the crisis.

An advocate for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that is now in jeopardy, Guterres said "even nuclear nonproliferation can no longer be taken for granted."

"We see increased social unrest and growing extremism, nationalism and radicalization," he continued. "This situation cannot go on."

Guterres said he had a "simple and clear" message for all parties involved: "Stop escalation."

The Security Council is unlikely to take action regarding the airstrike the killed Soleimani, according to U.K. Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was expected to speak on Thursday at a debate on peace and security, but it remains unclear whether the U.S. will issue a visa allowing him to attend.

By Pamela Falk
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

U.S. blasts Russia and China for blocking Security Council statement

The U.S. sharply criticized Russia and China for blocking the United Nations Security Council from issuing a statement protesting last month's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. said Monday it "should not be controversial or warrant courage" to underscore the obligations of a host country under the 1961 Geneva Convention to protect diplomatic premises.

The U.S. statement says it "would not tolerate attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities and will respond decisively to protect our interests, citizens, and allies."

The U.S. said the council's failure to issue a statement calls its credibility into question.

The Associated Press

  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

UNESCO calls for protection of cultural sites

Both Iran and the United States must observe a convention obliging states to preserve cultural sites, the United Nations cultural agency said on Monday after President Trump threatened to target Iranian cultural sites.

UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay said at a meeting with the Iranian ambassador to the organization that both Tehran and Washington had signed a 1972 convention obliging states not to undertake "any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly the cultural and natural heritage" of other states.

Mr. Trump appeared to ignore the international law when he threatened in a tweet over the weekend to target 52 sites inside Iran, which he said included cultural sites if the Islamic Republic retaliated for the American airstrike that killed a top Iranian general last week.

CBS News White House correspondent Ben Tracy said Mr. Trump's senior counselor Kellyanne Conway was evasive on Monday when asked about the president's threat, arguing that she couldn't address "hypotheticals" and suggesting the president could have been referring to sites that were both cultural and military.

"Secretary Pompeo said yesterday that we will be within the law," she said. "I think that Iran has many military, strategic military sites that you may cite, are also cultural sites." She did not elaborate on what the 52 sites were that the administration has identified as possible targets.

Mr. Trump's administration ended America's UNESCO membership last year, citing "concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias."

— CBS/AFP

IRAN-DAILY LIFE
Iranian motorists drive past the Azadi Tower in the capital Tehran on January 13, 2018. Getty
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Trump vows Iran won't get a nuke

President Trump renewed his vow on Monday never to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.

U.S. presidents have made that vow repeatedly since before Mr. Trump took office, but his tweet on Monday came hours after Tehran said it was abandoning the most crucial parts of the 2015 international nuclear deal.

Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of that pact unilaterally in 2018, a move which precipitated the current spiraling crisis with the Islamic Republic.

Since the Trump administration abandoned the deal, Iran has steadily abandoned individual commitments it agreed to under the accord. But the announcement over the weekend that Tehran would no longer abide by limits on its enrichment, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium it has or nuclear research and development was the most serious departure from the compact negotiated by former President Obama.

Tehran did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach with its nuclear program, and it noted that its abandonment of the 2015 deal's terms was reversible.

Iran says it will breach nuclear deal by enriching uranium at key facility

Last summer, as it began to pull away from the deal, Iran said its next goal would be to enrich uranium beyond the 3.67% purity permitted under the pact. Possessing uranium enriched beyond 3.76% — especially if it purified part of its stockpile to the next major technical benchmark of 20% — would greatly reduce the time necessary for Iran to "break out" from its civilian nuclear program and start working toward nuclear weapons capability.

Just a day later Iranian officials said they had successfully enriched uranium to about 4.5%, and threatened to hit the 20% mark.

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

Iran's arch-rival Saudi Arabia appeals for calm

Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally with close ties to the Trump White House, and the Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom is also an arch-rival of Shiite-led Iran. Iran has been engaged for years in a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen, where Tehran backs Shiite separatists known as Houthis fighting the Saudi- and U.S.-backed government.

That conflict has already seen rockets, allegedly provided by Iran, fired from Yemen's soil into neighboring Saudi Arabia, so with Iran threatening multi-faceted retaliation against the U.S. for its targeted killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani last week, it's no wonder the Saudis are worried.

"We are very keen that the situation in the region doesn't escalate any further," Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister said Monday.

"It's certainly a very dangerous moment and we have to be conscious of the risks and dangers not just to the region but to wider global security," Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in Riyadh. "We hope that all actors take all the steps necessary to prevent any further escalation and any provocation," he said.

Pompeo says attack on Saudi oil plant was "state-on-state act of war" by Iran
By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

France warns U.S. actions only benefit ISIS

The U.S. military's decision to put the war on ISIS on hold will only strengthen the resurgent terrorist group's insurgency campaign in Iraq, some of America's European allies are warning. The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq announced the halt to anti-ISIS operations on Sunday, citing the need to redirect efforts toward defending against any further Iranian-backed attacks in the country following the U.S. killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Cabinet ministers in France and Germany warned Monday that ISIS would be the only ones to benefit from the turmoil caused by Soleimani's killing in the Friday airstrike.

Trump threatens sanctions in Iraq after vote to expel U.S. troops

U.S. troops have been confined to their bases, are not interacting with their Iraqi counterparts and have hunkered down to protect themselves from any revenge attacks by Iran or its proxy groups in Iraq.

American forces have been crucial in the fight against ISIS, but now many in Iraq's parliament want them expelled over the strike that killed Soleimani. Without U.S. support, the fear is that Iraq's own security forces could crumble in the face of a resurgent ISIS, as they did in 2014.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday in a radio interview that "you must always ask who is served by and who profits from this instability. The instability in the Mideast today benefits only one organization: the Islamic State group."

He added that the instability would "increase the terrorist threat over France and Europe" and that "all tensions always affect global economic growth." 

By Tucker Reals
  Updated 12:58 AM / January 8, 2020

3,000 more U.S. troops head for the Middle East

More than 3,000 additional U.S. troops were headed for the Middle East on Monday to bolster defenses in case Iran makes good on its threat to retaliate for the Trump administration's targeted killing of a top general.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported Monday that some U.S. military commanders had not been in favor of killing Soleimani, on the grounds that Iran would feel compelled by its national honor to strike back, increasing the likelihood of a war nobody wants.

Trump administration defends decision to kill Qassem Soleimani

But the White House has stood by its decision to kill Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike last Friday, calling him a "terrorist" with the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands and accusing him of plotting new attacks against U.S. personnel in the region. Mr. Trump personally is standing by his vow to target up to 52 significant sites inside Iran — including non-military cultural sites — should the Islamic Republic retaliate for the strike.

The fear of an all-out conflict with Iran continued to mount in the wake of that threat, and Iran warning of "painful consequences" for the strike that killed Soleimani.

By Tucker Reals