FRONT PAGE NEWS
8 January 2020
IRAN LAUNCHES MISSILE ATTACK ON IRAQ BASE HOUSING U.S. TROOPS
Iran on Wednesday launched a missile attack on an Iraqi airbase where U.S.
forces are based, threatening "more crushing responses" if Washington
carried out further strikes, Iranian state media said.
It said the missiles were in response to a US strike last week that killed
Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi top commander Abu Mahdi
Security sources told AFP that nine rockets hit the sprawling Ain al-Asad
airbase in the country's west, the largest of the Iraqi military compounds
where foreign troops are based. The attack came in three waves just after
midnight, the sources said.
Iran swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack, with state TV saying it
had launched "tens of missiles" on the base and promised "more crushing
responses" if the U.S. carried out further strikes.
There were no immediate reports of casualties at the bases.
The Pentagon said Iran had fired more than a dozen missiles against Ain
al-Asad and another installation hosting US and coalition forces near Arbil.
It said bases hosting foreign troops had expected an attack and had been on
"high alert" for days.
U.S. President Donald Trump was "monitoring the situation closely and
consulting with his national security team," according to the White House.
WITHDRAWAL OF US TROOPS WILL BE 'WORST THING' FOR IRAQ: TRUMP
Pulling out U.S. troops from Iraq will be the "worst thing" for the country,
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, after the Iraqi parliament demanded
expulsion of American forces.
Some 5,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed in Iraq as part of the international
coalition against the IS terror group. On Sunday, the Iraqi parliament had
passed a resolution to terminate the agreement that allows for U.S troops in
Mr. Trump said if Iraq expels U.S. troops now, "I think it's the worst thing
that can happen to Iraq".
"If we leave that would mean that Iran would have a much bigger foothold,
and the people in Iraq do not want to see Iran running the country," he
In a brief interaction with reporters at the Oval Office of the White House,
Mr. Trump said at some point the U.S. will want to get out of Iraq.
"But this isn't the right point. The other thing is, if we do get out, we've
spent a tremendous amount of money on building airports and building one of
the largest embassies we have in the world. We want to be reimbursed to the
various costs that we have had," he said.
"They're very significant...We don't want to be there forever... I didn't
want to be there in the first place to be honest and everybody knows that.
That was when I was a civilian I said it, but we were there and they made a
decision and I disagreed with that decision very strongly, Mr.Trump said.
The president said that but "we're there now we've done a great job. We've
gotten rid of the caliphate. 100 per cent of the caliphate is gone, which is
US DENIES IRANIAN FM VISA FOR SECURITY COUNCIL MEET
The US has denied Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif a visa to
attend the upcoming UN Security Council (UNSC) meet, it was reported on
In a statement on Tuesday, Zarif said his Ministry had "weeks ago" requested
a visa to take part in the meeting to be held on Thursday.
Zarif rejected false claims by American officials that they did not have
time to process the application.
"The Americans are trying to create the impression that our request to
attend the meeting was put forth following the assassination of General
Soleimani. He (Secretary of State Mike Pompeo) has told UN Secretary General
Antonio Guterres that they couldn't issue the visa due to shortage of time,
whereas the request had been sent several weeks in advance," he said. The
Minister added that Washington's denial was an outright violation of the
terms of a 1947 UN Headquarters agreement, which required the US to allow
foreign officials into the country for UN affairs. There has been no
official comments on the development from the US State Department not the UN
Secretary-General's office. Zarif last travelled to New York in September
2019 for the UN General Assembly summit.
US BANS AIRLINES FROM FLYING OVER IRAQ, IRAN AFTER MISSILE ATTACK ON TROOPS
The US Federal Aviation Administration said it would ban U.S. carriers from
operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters
between Iran and Saudi Arabia after Iran launched a missile attack on US-led
forces in Iraq.
Tehran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles from Iranian territory
against at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US-led coalition
personnel, the US military said on Tuesday.
The FAA said it issued the airspace ban "due to heightened military
activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which
present an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations."
Several non-U.S. airlines had flights over parts of Iraq and Iran at the
time, according to FlightRadar24 data. They are not directly affected by the
FAA ban, but foreign carriers and their national regulators typically
consider U.S. advice carefully when deciding where to fly.
Before the latest guidance, the FAA had already prohibited U.S. carriers
from flying below 26,000 feet over Iraq and from flying over an area of
Iranian airspace above the Gulf and Gulf of Oman since Iran shot down a
high-altitude U.S. drone last June.
Singapore Airlines Ltd said after the attack on U.S. bases in Iraq that all
of its flights would be diverted from Iranian airspace.
Carriers are increasingly taking steps to limit threats to their planes
after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in 2014 by a missile over
Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
U.S.-IRAN UNREST: BRITAIN, FRANCE, GERMANY MEET IN BRUSSELS FOR CRISIS IRAN
The British, French and German Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday
to hold urgent talks over Iran as they prepare their reaction after Tehran's
decision to scrap the nuclear enrichment limits under a 2015 accord.
The Ministers had already been scheduled to meet with their Italian
counterpart to discuss the crisis in Libya, but opted to hold separate
discussions on Iran amid the crisis that erupted following the U.S. killing
of an Iranian General.
Britain's Foreign Office said the E3 - Britain, France and Germany, would
meet to discuss ways to defuse tensions between the United States and Iran.
"The talks will also cover the nuclear deal following Irans latest
announcement on Sunday that it is withdrawing from further commitments in
the deal," a British Foreign Office spokesman said. A French diplomatic
source confirmed the talks.
The bloc's 28 Ministers meet on Friday in Brussels to discuss the Iran
"It is imperative that we find a way to de-escalate things," France's junior
Foreign Affairs Minister told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
"The Europeans need to be the voice of reason. Because of everything that
has happened it's even more important to have contact with all actors to
avoid the worst and a vicious cycle of reprisals that leads to a fatal
PUERTO RICO DECLARES EMERGENCY, ACTIVATES NATIONAL GUARD AFTER EARTHQUAKES
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez declared a state of emergency and
activated the National Guard on Tuesday after a series of earthquakes
including one of magnitude 6.4 struck the Caribbean island.
The temblors killed at least one person, knocked out power across much of
the island and caused significant damage, authorities and media reported.
Vazquez said all public sector offices except for emergency services would
remain closed on Tuesday while emergency plans were implemented. The
emergency order and activation of the National Guard were later published on
an official government website.
The island has been rocked by a series of quakes in recent days, including a
5.8-magnitude temblor on Monday that damaged a few homes on the southern
The U.S. territory is still recovering from a pair of devastating 2017
hurricanes that killed about 3,000 people and destroyed significant
infrastructure across an island working through a bankruptcy process to
restructure about $120 billion of debt and pension obligations.
Vazquez, who assumed office in August after Ricardo Rossello stepped down in
the face of massive street protests, tweeted pleas for people to remain
"We want everyone to be safe. That is why all work in the public sectors has
been suspended today, so that you can be with your family, implementing your
emergency plans," Vazquez tweeted.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported a small tsunami measuring around
20 centimeters (7.9 inches).
The first and biggest quake on Tuesday, of magnitude 6.4, struck at a depth
of 10.0 km (six miles) at 4:24 am (0824 GMT) near Ponce on the island's
southern coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
THAIS ASKED TO SHOWER LESS AS DROUGHT WORSENS
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Tuesday urged people to turn off
taps and shower less to cope with a drought afflicting northern and central
Last week, Bangkok's water authority said the capital's tap water was
becoming saline as seawater pushed up the depleted Chao Phraya river, a
source of much of central Thailand's water.
The cabinet agreed on Tuesday to spend 3 billion baht ($100 million) on
boreholes and pipes to extract ground water to relieve a drought that is
expected to worsen in the next few months, a government spokeswoman told
Thailand's dry season started in November and usually lasts through April,
although this year authorities say it could go on through June. A drought
has been declared in 14 provinces in the central, northern and northeastern
"Please all help save water. Turn off all the taps. Use less water," Prayuth
said. "Reduce tooth-brushing and shower time by one minute."
With reservoir levels low, the government has also asked farmers in some
provinces near the Chao Phraya River basin not to grow off-season rice.