Trump: Iran Appears to Be ‘Standing Down’ After Missile Attacks
US president says overnight rocket attacks caused no US or Iraqi deaths; Iran claims its “decisive response” to Soleimani assassination killed 80 Americans
Iran launched more than a dozen short-range ballistic missiles on two military bases housing US forces in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike last week that killed a top Iranian general.
US President Donald Trump took to the podium on Wednesday to address the nation, saying that Iran appeared to be “standing down” after the overnight rocket attacks and that no Americans or Iraqis were killed. He made no mention of possible retaliation to Tuesday’s missile attacks.
Hard-line Iranian press outlets claim that the rocket attack killed as many as 80 US service personnel.
“All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases. Our great American forces are prepared for anything,” President Trump said from the White House.
“Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world. No American or Iraqi lives were lost.”
Flanked by his top military officials, Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Trump announced “additional punishing sanctions” on Iran.
Tensions have been building up between Washington and Tehran following the US killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani last week.
Iran had pledged severe retaliation.
Jason Brodsky, policy director for United Against Nuclear Iran, told The Media Line that Tuesday’s rocket attacks were a measured first response by Iran.
“Iran said it would avenge Soleimani’s death and it did so overtly in the strike last night. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Tehran’s retaliation. While direct attacks may have concluded last night, asymmetrical revenge will likely continue to plague US interests in the region through Iran’s Axis of Resistance.”
Hours after the attack, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic will not sit idle: “We don’t retreat in the face of America.”
“If America has committed a crime … it should know that it will receive a decisive response,” Rouhani said in a televised address.
“If they are wise, they won’t take any other action at this juncture.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said a “slap in the face” had been delivered to the US but hinted that more could come.
“An important incident has happened. The question of revenge is another issue,” Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
“What is important is that America’s corrupt presence must come to an end in this region.”
Nabeel Nowairah, a research associate at the Washington-based Gulf International Forum, told The Media Line that the barrage of missiles fired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was nothing more than a theatrical production.
“What we saw last night was a play in the international theater. The Iranian missile attacks are an agreed-upon face-saving response to the Soleimani killing.” Nowairah added that “both Iran and Trump do not want to go to full-scale war.”
Hasan Awwad, a Middle East expert at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, told The Media Line that Iranian officials are sophisticated and fully aware of their audiences.
“The rocket attacks were carried out with four messages in mind: One was for domestic consumption as the leaders of Iran need to follow through on their threats. The second was a message to the US, that they won’t take it kneeling down.”
Awwad said that the leadership in Tehran was under tremendous pressure and that they didn’t want to look vulnerable but they also had to make their case – their third message – to the world.
“They [Iran] were quick to reference UN bylaws and claim self-defense,” adding that the fourth message was for a regional audience: “They wanted to send a message to Washington allies in the region that they were able to target them with a great deal of accuracy.”
As a result of Soleimani’s assassination, Iraq has openly become an arena for the US and Iran to settle their differences.
Iraqi officials condemned the Iranian rocket attack in a statement. The Iraqi prime minister’s office said it received an “official verbal message” from Iran informing it of an imminent attack on US forces.
“Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its territory,” the statement said.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu supported President Trump’s decision to assassinate Soleimani, he told an audience at a conference on the so-called “Pompeo Doctrine.”
“President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly quickly and resolutely against this terrorist-in-chief who was the architect of Iran’s campaign of carnage and terror throughout the Middle East and throughout the world,” Netanyahu said.