Trump says Iran ‘appears to be standing down,’ missile strikes resulted in no casualties
President Trump declared Wednesday that Iran “appears to be standing down,” in the wake of missile strikes on American bases in Iraq that he said resulted in “no casualties.”
“Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned,” he said, in remarks from the White House the morning after the attacks.
“The American people should be extremely grateful and happy,” Trump said. “No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.”
He added: “No American or Iraqi lives were lost.”
While the attacks were the latest escalation with Tehran in the aftermath of a U.S. drone strike that killed the top Iranian general, they appeared to open the door to reducing tensions after it became clear that no American forces were killed.
“All is well!” the president tweeted Tuesday night. “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,” he said.
All is well! 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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2020
The president’s upcoming address comes after Iran fired as many as 15 ballistic missiles into Iraq. Ten missiles hit the Ain al-Asad Air Base, which houses U.S. troops, one missile hit a U.S. military base in Erbil, and four missiles failed to hit their targets, according to a U.S. military spokesman for Central Command, responsible for American forces in the Middle East.
The late Tuesday attacks unfolded in two waves, about an hour apart.
“In recent days and in response to Iranian threats and actions, the Department of Defense has taken all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners,” a Pentagon statement released late Tuesday said. “These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region. As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”
While no U.S. or other NATO casualties were reported, the bases were potentially vulnerable.
U.S. defense officials said the U.S. military did not attempt to shoot down the ballistic missiles fired from Iran because there were no American military assets in place to intercept them. The Patriot and Avenger anti-missile defense systems are deployed to other locations in the Middle East, but not to the two Iraqi bases targeted by Iran. Officials say the American assets are in high demand and short supply around the world.
“For the past few years, our focus was defeating ISIS and keeping a light footprint in Iraq. We did not need air defense systems against ISIS,” one official said, explaining why there were no U.S. missile defense systems in place at the Iraqi bases.
Iran’s foreign minister said the targets in Iraq were chosen because that is where U.S. Special Operations forces launched the drone strike to kill Qassem Soleimani.
Just after the missile strikes, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps warned the U.S. and regional allies against retaliating for the attack.
“We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted,” IRGC warned in a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, while also threatening Israel.
Pentagon officials said that Iran had more than 2,000 ballistic missiles — a figure determined in the latest U.S. intelligence assessment.
The attack late Tuesday came just days after a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian Quds Force Gen. Soleimani. The U.S. blamed Soleimani for the killing of hundreds of American troops, and said he was plotting new attacks just before his death.
Iranian officials and Trump have traded threats since Soleimani’s death, and more U.S. troops have been deployed to the region amid heightened tensions.
Iran-backed militias in Iraq, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), have threatened revenge on American interests and personnel for the killings.
On Sunday, Iraqi lawmakers approved a resolution to expel U.S. forces from the country. U.S. troops were deployed to Iraq five years ago at the request of the Iraqi government, after the Islamic State overtook vast swaths of the country.
After the attack on U.S. bases Tuesday night, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that ballistic missile attacks targeting U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq Wednesday morning were “a slap in the face” to the United States.
Khamenei said the U.S. should leave the region, adding, “Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region,” Reuters reported.