In Iran, Rejoicing Over Retaliation, then Relief at No U.S. Counterstrike


Iran had carefully orchestrated its retaliatory response for maximum symbolism and emotional impact: The attack began around 1:20 a.m. Wednesday, correlated to the time that Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was killed by an American drone strike last week.

The country launched more than 20 missiles, the barrage targeting two large military bases that house thousands of Iraqi and American servicemen and women.

Iranians rejoiced at the retaliation, saying it showed defiance and courage.

“It’s a proud day to be Iranian,” said Amir, 42, of Tehran, in a telephone interview. He, like others, asked to be identified by first name only out of concern of being quoted in a foreign newspaper. “Time for everyone to respect our power.”

Omid Balaghati, a writer based in Tehran, posted on Twitter: “Strong politicians need to have strong military men next to them, and this is the story today.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in his first public speech on Wednesday, suggested that Wednesday’s attack was not the end. “For now we slapped the Americans last night,” he said. “America’s military presence in the region must end.”

For days, momentum had built for Iran to strike back. For the first time in many years, the public supported the leadership’s calls for a public confrontation with the United States. Still, in the hours after the attack, Iranians spent a restless night wondering whether Washington would strike back.

President Trump said no Americans were killed in the attack, but some Iranians did not believe him. Iranian state media reported that 80 American soldiers were killed and more than 200 injured.

“People believe that American soldiers were killed, but Trump is not admitting it because that would mean cornering him into war,” said Alireza, a 42-year-old engineer from Tehran, in a telephone interview.

Families stayed glued to state and satellite television and social media for live updates of the attacks and reaction from the United States. Iranians outside of the country frantically tried to reach family members at home to check on their safety and show solidarity.



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