Iran's supreme leader calls missile strike 'slap in the face' to US

Iran's supreme leader calls missile strike 'slap in the face' to US
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Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Wednesday touted the overnight missile strike Tehran launched on Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops, saying the action amounted to a "slap in the face" to the U.S. 

Speaking before a packed hall in the city of Qom, Khamenei denounced U.S. actions in the Middle East and warned that military operations would "not suffice" as retaliation for the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last week, according to reports. His speech was interrupted by consistent chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

“Military operations do not suffice. What is important in addition to retaliation is to end the U.S.’s corrupting presence in the region," Khamenei said in a televised address. "The discussion about revenge is something else, this was just a slap in the face last night."

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Iran late Tuesday night claimed responsibility for launching several missiles at the Al-Assad and Irbil military bases in Iraq, which house U.S. troops and coalition personnel. The Pentagon said in a statement that "more than a dozen ballistic missiles" had been directed at "U.S. military and coalition forces" and that it was clear "these missiles were launched from Iran."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the attacks "proportionate measures in self-defense" in wake of the U.S. strike that killed Soleimani, who was one of the most powerful officials in Iran and the leader of its elite Quds Force. Zarif said that Iran did not "seek escalation or war," but Khamenei warned in his address that "if you hit, you get hit back," CNN noted.

"They know this. They know that if they get themselves involved in a confrontation with us and get entangled in a military way, they will get their feet trapped," he said. 

Khamenei also argued that U.S. presence in the Middle East was a "source of corruption" and reiterated his demand for the country to leave the region, The New York Times reported. He also said that “sitting at the negotiating table” with American diplomats would only lead to greater foreign intervention, adding that negotiations between the nations should “come to an end.”

“This region does not accept the U.S. presence," Khamenei said. He did not provide any additional details about the missile attacks. 

The strikes led to no U.S. casualties, according to early reports. Trump tweeted late Tuesday that "all is well" and that he would make a public statement on Wednesday.