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Iran says it has launched ballistic missiles at American air bases in Iraq

After trading threats with the U.S., Iran said Tuesday night it launched ballistic missiles on Iraqi facilities housing U.S. troops in retaliation for the American killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The attacks come after President Trump and top U.S. officials defended the Soleimani strike, which has been blamed for pushing the U.S. and Iran closer to war. Judy Woodruff and Nick Schifrin report.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we come on the air tonight, we have breaking news.

    Iran's Revolutionary Guard says that it has launched ballistic missiles in the direction of American air bases in Iraq, where U.S. troops are stationed.

    Iran says it is retaliating for the targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani last Friday by a U.S. drone strike.

    This comes as President Trump is being pressed for proof that killing Soleimani saved American lives. He and his top advisers all addressed that concern today.

    Meanwhile, at least 56 people died and more than 200 were hurt in a crush of people at the general's funeral in Iran.

    Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    A day in Iran meant for mourning a military commander will now lead to the mourning of many more. The stampede came during the funeral procession of Major General Qasem Soleimani through his hometown.

    All that remained was a pile of shoes. Standing before hundreds of thousands, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard promised vengeance.

  • Hossein Salami (through translator):

    I say to our enemies, we will take revenge. But if they take another step in response, we will set fire to the places they love. And they know where these places are.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That language was echoed by Iran's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who also shut the door to any future prisoner swaps.

  • Mohammad Javad Zarif (through translator):

    The United States is bound to receive a definitive and certain response for its outrageous act at a time and in a place where it would feel the utmost pain.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The New York Times reported that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wants retaliation to be a — quote — "direct and proportional" attack on American interests and "openly carried out by Iranian forces."

    That's a contrast to many previous attacks conducted by Iran's network of proxy groups. Iran's Parliament today voted to designate the Pentagon and U.S. Army terrorist organizations.

    At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the ball was in Iran's court.

  • Mark Esper:

    The United States is not seeking a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one. We are seeking a diplomatic solution. But, first, this will require Iran to de-escalate.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yesterday, the U.S. military said it mistakenly sent a draft letter to the Iraqi government suggesting the U.S. was withdrawing troops from Iraq.

    Today, Iraq's caretaker prime minister said he was treating it as policy, but Esper said there had been no change.

  • Mark Esper:

    We are not leaving Iraq. And a draft, unsigned letter doesn't constitute a policy change.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today the U.S.' policy of maximum resistance would continue. And he reiterated, without evidence, the intelligence that led the U.S. to target Soleimani suggested an imminent attack in the days after the siege on the U.S. Embassy.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    If you're looking for imminence, you need to look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Soleimani.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump also defended the intelligence, but walked back an earlier threat to attack Iranian cultural sites.

  • President Donald Trump:

    And we are, according to various laws, supposed to be very careful with their cultural heritage. And you know what? If that what the law is, I like to obey the law.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    On Capitol Hill, lawmakers continued their clash over President Trump's Iran policy.

  • Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer:

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    The president has promised that he wouldn't drag the American people into another endless war in the Middle East. The president's actions, however, have seemingly increased the risk that we could be dragged into exactly such a war.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    When he enforces his red lines, when he takes real action to counter lethal threats against Americans.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Administration officials are briefing Congress today and tomorrow, trying to create bipartisan support, as they await Iran's response."

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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