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President Trump: Iran ‘appears to be standing down’

President Donald Trump
Pool/CNN
President Donald Trump, facing the gravest test of his presidency to date, struck a somber tone announcing no Americans were harmed in Iran's retaliatory attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops.

Outlines new sanctions; reiterates vow: They 'will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon'

By Nicole Gaouette, Hamdi Alkhshali, Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr and Tamara Qiblawi, CNN

 (CNN) -- President Donald Trump, facing the gravest test of his presidency, signaled a de-escalation of tensions with Iran Wednesday in the wake of Iran's retaliatory attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops.

"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," Trump said, striking a somber tone during his White House statement.

An early warning system worked well and no American or Iraqi lives were lost, Trump said.

The President also outlined new sanctions on Iran and reiterated his vow that "Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon."

"The United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime," Trump said during an address to the nation from the White House, noting his administration is continuing to review other options to respond to the Iranian missile strike on Tuesday.

"These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior," he added. "In recent months alone, Iran has seized ships in international waters, fired an unprovoked strike on Saudi Arabia and shot down two American drones."

Iran fired a number of missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops Wednesday local time in retaliation for the American strike that killed a top Iranian general last week.

There is a growing belief among administration officials that Iran deliberately missed areas populated by Americans, multiple administration officials told CNN on Wednesday.

These officials floated the notion that Iran could have directed their missiles to hit areas that are populated by Americans, but intentionally did not. Iraq did receive advance warning that the strike was coming and was able to take "necessary precautions," according to a statement from Iraq's Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. A US defense official said that Iraq, in turn, gave advance warning to the United States.

Iraq's joint military command said there were no casualties among Iraqi military forces.

Iran targeted the al-Asad airbase, which houses US troops, and American and coalition forces in Erbil, according to Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesperson. Trump had visited al-Asad in December 2018.

'All is well'

Trump tweeted Tuesday night that he would make a statement Wednesday morning.

"All is well!" Trump tweeted. "Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning."

The administration officials who discussed Iran's targeting suggested that Tehran's leaders may have intended to send a message rather than take action significant enough to trigger a US military response, a possible indication that the White House is looking for a rationale to calm tensions.

The attack comes days after the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The administration sought to cast the strike as an attempt to de-escalate tensions with Iran, but Tehran has described it as an "act of war" and "state terrorism." Soleimani had been the second most powerful official in the country.

In a televised speech to Iran Wednesday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed the missile attacks and said Iran had given the US "a slap in the face last night."

He added that America had cast Soleimani as a "terrorist," which was "unjust and unfair."

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, an elite wing of the Iranian military with immense political and economic power, said in a statement that the attacks on Iraqi bases were "hard revenge" for Soleimani's death. The IRGC said any country housing US troops could be subject to "hostile and aggressive acts" and called on American citizens to demand the administration remove US troops from the region.

It warned the US: "If you repeat your wickedness or take any additional movements or make additional aggression, we will respond with more painful and crushing responses."

Iran sent Iraq "an official verbal message" about the missile attacks shortly before midnight on Wednesday, according to a statement from Mahdi.

He said that Iraq was told that: "The strike would be limited to the whereabouts of the US military in Iraq, without giving the exact location." Iraqi military leaders were warned "to take the necessary precautions."

The prime minister said that Iraq had received no official information on losses from coalition forces.

In recent days, US bases have been on high alert due because of indications Iran might attack. A US military official told CNN the military had enough warning of the launches to sound alarms and people in harm's way were able to get to safety.

Iran warns the US

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the response was meant to be proportionate to the American attack that killed Soleimani, framing Iran's attack within international law. The top diplomat also said Iran had "concluded" its widely anticipated response Soleimani's killing.

"Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched," Zarif tweeted. "We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."

The rockets pose a direct challenge to Trump, who threatened Iran on Tuesday, just hours before the attacks began. "If Iran does anything that it shouldn't be doing, they will be suffering the consequences and very strongly," the President said.

In the immediate aftermath of Soleimani's killing, Trump repeatedly stressed that the deadly drone strike was meant to reduce violence. "We took action last night to stop a war," he told reporters a day after the attack. "We did not take action to start a war."

After the strikes Tuesday evening, Trump met in the White House Situation Room with members of his national security team including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs chairman Mark Milley, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, and press secretary Stephanie Grisham. CIA Director Gina Haspel attended the meeting remotely.

Iran's decision to attack is a "huge gamble," said Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor and Iran expert at the University of Ottawa who said that leaders in Tehran have included Trump's domestic political concerns in their calculations. The President ran on a platform of ending US involvement in the messy Middle East entanglements.

"Iran assesses Trump does not want to get bogged down in a large scale war in the Middle East, and that this gives it more margin to maneuver," Juneau wrote on Twitter. "Needless to say, this is a HUGE gamble given how unpredictable Trump is."

This story has been updated with additional breaking news developments.

National & World

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

Comments

36 Comments

  1. You see liberals. No WWIII! This is how you handle regimes that want to kill Americans. You don’t give them billions of dollars in the middle of the night and expect them to give that money to their people. All of the missiles fired by these people were bought and paid for by the money Obama gave them.

    It’s great to be an American. Oh and by the way, Iran shot down a commercial airplane killing everyone on board and crickets from the media. They are an enemy and the media needs to start treating them as such!

    Thank god for President Trump! KAGA!

        1. I don’t write or edit the national/world news on our site, though our new system does require me to go get it some times, from CNN wire (Still not sure on AP, they are very costly.) I did hear on NPR a bit ago that the officials there are rolling back from earlier explanations, being more cautious. Apparently there’s a video of plane on fire going down…

            1. Well, there are those ‘hateful’ ads. Twitter is free too, like Facebook. People expect responsible, authoritative journalism for free, the bane of the Internet’s birth. Sometimes you get what you pay for, other times…

              1. Surely you heard what Justice Roberts had to say about social media the other day, right? I mean look at that woman on here that was running around talking about the draft because she believed the fake text that went out…. exactly what Roberts was talking about…. to paraphrase, he said that if people read it on Facebook it must be true and that is a detriment to our society.

                Well your Honor… you’re correct. Also a detriment to our society is the media picking and choosing which articles to spin and tell the public… such as the Muslim teen laughing in court after being sentenced for setting fires in Australia. Such as the Nick Sandmann case. Such as countless others

                1. Not sure if you noticed, but when I found it I turned on the Sandmann article comments. Not that I expect anything I say or do to change your opinion about the big evil media…

                1. Doesn’t make it incorrect either. I’m all about the specifics on local stories. Feel free to vent on the state/national ones, but there are only so many hours in the day – if there are literal errors, I can fix or have them fixed. If it’s a … broader issue (“fake news,” etc.) well…

    1. Wow you could not even get one fact right in your little rant there. You should try doing some research and not just taking what trumps twitter rants as the truth. The money to Iran has been explained over and over but you can’t understand facts that don’t support your little conspiracy theory.

    2. We lucked out. If those missiles had hit something important, today would have been really different. And Trump wasn’t steering ’em.

      When I heard the strike hit, I was praying no one got killed. Sure, for the troops on the bases, but more for the thousands of Americans who would have had to die subsequently.

      Good job taking out the baddie. Heard it took Iran almost a whole day to replace him. Glad our $2.5 trillion is being well spent.

    3. Iran launches 22 missiles at an base where US military personnel are stationed and litte draft dodging donnie says “all is well!” Then retaliates with yet more meaningless sanctions. LOL!!!Soooo much winning!!! Oh, and golfing and lying!!! LMAO!! Little lindsey graham called it “an act of war” Emporer bonespurs says “they are standing down” And the clown car rolls on. You should’ve stayed in school!!!

  2. it reminds me of 1-1-2001 or one of the many other end of the world crisis’s the media created that I’ve survived. all the ww3 hype and boys under 40 bawling about a draft that hasn’t existed in 50 years, this morning is just another day. have some faith in the magical powers of chuck and Nancy. trump couldn’t possibly start a third world war, he’s been impeached

  3. So this distraction from his IMPEACHMENT didn’t work out so well because he’s backtracking like he does on everything else. It’s funny because he does something stupid and the trolls defend him and make excuses again and again without shape. Not a good look today with the horrible make-up and way to much Adderall to blame for his lethargic speech. Don’t you get tired of his stupidity trolls?

    1. He’s STILL the President. The ONLY way he’s been impeached is thru the Court of Public Opinion…. EXACTLY like you mouth breathing pondscum did with Kavanaugh.

      And your bad guy hero brother to obama…. is ****in’ DEAD 🙂

      1. Wow! Trump trolls love showing off how dumb they are. Go back to school and you might learn that the orange anus WAS impeached and that will never change. It’s the gutless scumbags in the Senate led by the evil turtle who won’t have the courage to throw him out. And like the fake president you seem to have lots of hatred for Obama? Get help son.

  4. Rockets targeting Americans are landing in Iraq as the top Democrats in office are proclaiming their intentions to protect the rocket launchers….

    Think about that when you get to the voting booth this fall.

  5. The IMPOTUS just served up a nothing burger. After entering 30 minutes late (gotta get that hair JUST right) he stumbled through five minutes of his tired old pack of lies and then said that he isn’t going to do anything because Iran “stepped back,” as if a rocket attack that simply showed that they could do it was “stepping back.” And on top of it he wants everyone else to withdraw from the Iran nuclear arms deal, calling it a means to reduce nuclear arms proliferation in the Middle East. Stupid logic (also known as trump logic) at best. And finally, after three years of threatening, whining, and complaining about NATO he’s asking them for support. Ya gotta admit he’s got guts, in a short-sighted and infantile way, to do that.

    1. Well said! Fox news reporting right now that pentagon anlysis shows missiles were intended to kill American and allied personnel. The failed new york city trust fund baby thinks that means “all is well” Total loser. When asked Monday night if he was concerned about Iranian reprisals against US service people he said “if they do they do” “We’ll hit them hard, very hard.” Excellent! our draft dodging liar in cheif thinks if Americans get killed then they get killed! We’ll sanction Iran hard after they do!
      Od course Iran “will never have a nuclear weapon” Because little lyin donnie will simply say they are no longer a nuclear threat and his gullible, poorly educated base of morons will believe him just like they believe North korea and cadet bonespurs “lover” are no longer a threat !
      ROTFLMAO!!!!

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