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US Iran ease conflict fears but threats keep crisis rolling

Pieces of missiles are seen at the rural area of Al-Baghdadi town after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) targeted an airbase in Iraq, a facility jointly operated by US and Iraqi forces, in Erbil, Iraq on 8 January 2020 [Al-Baghdadi township/Anadolu Agency]
Pieces of missiles are seen at the rural area of Al-Baghdadi town after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) targeted an airbase in Iraq, a facility jointly operated by US and Iraqi forces, in Erbil, Iraq on 8 January 2020 [Al-Baghdadi township/Anadolu Agency]

Iran spurned the US president's call for a new nuclear pact and its commanders threatened more attacks as the Middle East remained on edge following the US killing of an Iranian general and Tehran's retaliatory missile strikes, Reuters reports.

Concern the war-scarred region was primed for a wider conflict eased after US President Donald Trump refrained from ordering more military action and Iran's foreign minister diplomat said missile strikes "concluded" Tehran's response.

But each side's next move in their protracted shadow war was uncertain. Iranian generals resumed their habitual barrage of warnings to Washington and Trump said new sanctions were being imposed, as his Democratic rivals criticised his handling of the crisis.

Analysts say that in an election year, Trump wants to avoid getting into a drawn-out conflict. In turn, Iran will try to avert direct confrontation with superior US forces but can call on proxy militias across the region as US sanctions bite.

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Iran fired missiles on Wednesday at bases in Iraq where US troops were stationed in retaliation for the killing in a US drone attack of powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3.

The actions followed months of tension that has increased since Trump pulled the United States out of Iran's nuclear pact with world powers in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have driven down Tehran's oil exports and hammered its economy.

Trump had told Americans in an address on Wednesday: "The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it".

The Iranian missiles fired on military bases in Iraq had not harmed any US troops, he said. Iran "appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned," he said.

Iraq: We were informed of Iran's strikes before they happened

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