Iranian diplomat after strike: 'We do not seek escalation or war'

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said late Tuesday that Tehran does not seek “escalation or war” after it launched more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops and coalition forces.

“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched,” Zarif tweeted Tuesday night.

“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he added.

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The tweet comes as tensions between Washington and Tehran reach a fever pitch over a drone strike last week that killed top Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was widely viewed as one of the most powerful figures in the country behind Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran for days had threatened to retaliate for the U.S. strike killing Soleimani, which Trump argued was aimed at thwarting plots against Americans. The strike followed a series of escalations that included the death of an American contractor in Iraq, which U.S. officials blamed on Iran.

The Pentagon in a statement Tuesday night said Iran had "launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq," adding, "It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil." 

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Khamenei had vowed “harsh retaliation” over the killing of Soleimani, who was known to be a close associate of the Iranian leader.

Critics of last week’s strike pointed to unpredictable repercussions, including a military retaliation from Iran or attacks from its international network of proxy forces, which had been directed by Soleimani.

Trump has vowed a harsh response to any Iranian retaliation, threatening to attack Iranian cultural sites before backing away from the idea amid widespread criticism.

“If Iran does anything they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences and very strongly,” Trump told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with the Greek prime minister Tuesday.