WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Iran appears to be “standing down” and said no Americans or Iraqis were harmed in Iran’s Tuesday ballistic missile strike on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.
Speaking from the foyer of the White House, Trump announced that the U.S. will immediately place new sanctions on Iran “until Iran changes it’s behavior.” He defended his targeted killing last week of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. He added that Americans should be “extremely grateful and happy” with the outcome.
Trump reiterated his position that “Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon” and called for new nuclear negotiations to replace the 2015 nuclear deal from which he withdrew the U.S.
Trump also announced he would ask NATO to become “much more involved in the Middle East process.”
The Iranian strikes came days after Trump authorized the targeted killing of Soleimani. Iran had pledged to retaliate, though its actions did not appear to result in any American casualties, according to a U.S. official. Its missiles targeted two bases — one in the northern Iraqi city in Irbil and the other at Ain al-Asad in western Iraq.
The lack of U.S. casualties could signal that Iran is not interested in escalating the tension with Washington — at least not now — and could give Trump an opening to calm relations with Iran and pull the U.S. back from the brink of war. Trump, who is facing reelection in November, campaigned for president on a promise to keep the United States from engaging in “endless war.”
Sen. James Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee told reporters Wednesday that he spoke with Trump Tuesday evening after the Iranian strike and said the president indicated his desire to reopen negotiations with Iran.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a joint statement after a closed-door meeting on Mideast security are warning that the further use of force “would lead to a new cycle of instability and would eventually damage everyone’s interests.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the country had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.”
But speaking on Wednesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the strike was not necessarily the totality of Iran’s response.
“Last night they received a slap,” Khamenei said in a speech. “These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”