Security: UPDATE 1: Increased security, airspace restrictions to continue following Iranian missile strikes in Iraq, Jan. 8. Exercise extreme caution.

Severity: Critical Alert

This alert affects Iraq

This alert began 08 Jan 2020 03:40 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Ballistic missile strikes
  • Locations: Al Anbar and Erbil Provinces (map)
  • Time/Date: Early Jan. 8
  • Impact: Increased security measures, airspace restrictions; possible retaliatory attacks, additional violence, localized transport and business disruptions

Summary
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched over a dozen ballistic missiles at Ayn al-Assad Airbase in Al Anbar Province and Harir Airbase in Erbil Province of Iraq, early Jan. 8. Both airbases reportedly house Australian, British, Canadian, and US military personnel. There have been no immediate reports of casualties, though the US Department of Defense has said that it is working on initial damage assessments.

Iranian officials have threatened further attacks against US military targets in the Middle East and Israel should the US retaliate against the latest missile strikes. Hizballah - the Iranian-backed Shi'a militant group in Lebanon - has also vowed to launch attacks against Israel if the US were to retaliate against Iran.

Further strikes and violence against US military bases and assets remain possible in the coming days. There have been several rocket and mortar attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops since the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani Jan. 3. Rockets have also struck Baghdad's International (Green) Zone, causing civilian injuries. Iraqi Shi'a militias have warned Iraqi security forces to steer clear of bases that house US troops. Additionally, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and several other countries in the region will likely remain on high-security alert amid fears of further violence.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued flight restrictions prohibiting US civil aviation airlines from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, as of early Jan. 8. Singapore Airlines (SQ) has also begun diverting all flight routes from the Iranian airspace as a precaution. Other major airline companies could implement similar restrictions.

Background and Analysis
The ballistic missile strikes come a few days after the US conducted an airstrike near Baghdad International Airport (BGW) Jan. 3, killing Soleimani and several prominent Iraqi Shi'a militia leaders. The US government said that the airstrike, which came after hundreds of Shi'a militia supporters stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad Dec. 31, was a defensive action as Soleimani was allegedly planning an imminent attack that would have endangered American lives in the Middle East. The Iranian leadership, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and top IRGC generals have repeatedly threatened to avenge Soleimani's death in recent days.

Following the latest missile strikes, the Iranian government is unlikely to engage in further attacks in retaliation to Soleimani's killing. Hossein Dehghan - a senior military advisor to Khamenei - said, Jan. 5, that Iran's response would be a military one and that the country would target US military bases. Dehghan's statements implied that Iran was not interested in additional violence beyond the intended retaliatory actions; tensions could subside if there is no significant US response against Iranian military targets in the coming days. Nonetheless, Iranian proxies could still attempt to conduct attacks against the US and its assets via proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

Advice
If operating in Iraq, exercise extreme caution over the coming days. Avoid all gatherings and rallies. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Plan for delays to diplomatic services and Iraqi government operations across the country. Reconfirm business appointments. If there are reports of incoming artillery fire in the general vicinity, stay indoors, away from windows and exterior walls, and, if possible, move to a ground floor or basement. Check flight status before departing for the airport if traveling via Baghdad International Airport (BGW) as sporadic security incidents may prompt flight disruptions with little to no warning. Do not check out of accommodations until onward travel is confirmed.

Related Advice: General guidelines to protect yourself against terrorism.