U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday there were no American casualties in the Iranian strikes on military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and that Tehran appeared to be standing down.
Iran launched 18 ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops in response to the killing of Iran's top general. Iran's attack was its most brazen direct assault on America since the 1979 seizing of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
"No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties," Trump said in a special White House address. "Our great American forces are prepared for anything."
"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world."
As he spoke, the U.S. president was flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and military officers.
Trump signaled a desire to de-escalate the crisis. "The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it," he said. "We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent."
Trump stopped short of making any direct threat of military action against Iran. He urged world powers including Russia and China to abandon the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and work toward a new agreement.
"We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place," he said, adding he is going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East.
The president, nevertheless, went on to announce new "powerful" sanctions on the Islamic Republic unless the country "changes its behavior."
The Iranian strikes came days after Trump authorized the targeted killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force. The missiles targeted two bases - one in the northern Iraqi city in Irbil and the other at Ain al-Asad in western Iraq.
A 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 nation back from the brink of war. Trump, who is seeking reelection at the end of the year, campaigned for president on a promise to keep the United States from engaging in "endless war."
The counterattack by Iran came as Trump and his top advisers were under pressure to disclose more details about the intelligence that led to the American strike that killed Soleimani.
Top Senate Democrats, citing "deep concern" about the lack of information coming from the Trump administration about the Iran operation, called on Defense Department officials to provide "regular briefings and documents" to Congress.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the senators said in a letter Wednesday that the White House's classified War Powers notification to Congress was "generic, vague, and entirely inconsistent in its level of detail" compared with the norm.
"While recognizing the need for operations security, we similarly believe there is a requirement to be transparent with the American people about how many troops this Administration plans to deploy in support of contingency plans," wrote Schumer, Sen. Dick Durbin and the Armed Services Committee's Sen. Jack Reed to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint chiefs of staff.
They also registered their "grave concern" with Trump's comments on targeting Iranian cultural sites and asked for clarification. They said they expected a response by Friday.
First published: 17:25 , 01.08.20