President Donald Trump, in his first lengthy remarks since Iran’s retaliation for the U.S.-ordered killing of one of its top military officials, said that the U.S. will impose additional economic sanctions, but did not announce further American military action.
“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, after noting that no American or Iraqi lives were lost in Iran’s missile strikes.
“All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained,” he said from the Grand Foyer of the White House, before an audience of reporters and administration officials.
Cable and broadcast networks covered Trump’s address live, which was framed as a make-or-break moment that would either lead to a significant escalation of hostilities between the U.S. and Iran, or a signal of restraint. Trump called for NATO allies to get more involved in the Middle East. He gave no formal offer of negotiations with the Iranians, but he held out the possibility of seeking a deal with the regime.
“The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,” Trump said.
The additional economic sanctions, though, will put new pressure on Iran. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran rose after the Trump administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and then re-imposed sanctions on the country.
“Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism,” Trump said.
Iran fired more than a dozen missiles on Tuesday that struck two air Iraqi bases where U.S. troops were stationed, a retaliation for the killing of top general Qasem Solemaini. Some took the absence of U.S. casualties as a sign that Iran intended the strike as a warning, calculated not to hit U.S. soldiers, rather than a step toward war.
“The Iranian officials had to know that they would be ending up in a huge conflict if they made a very, very massive attack,” ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, reporting from Tehran, told George Stephanopoulos.
Trump also accused the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama, of forging a nuclear deal with Iran that ended up releasing funds to the Tehran regime. He suggested that Iran used the money to fund the missile strike on Tuesday.
“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,” Trump said. Factcheck.org and other news outlets say that the money that went to Iran as part of the nuclear deal were Iranian funds that were frozen following the 1979 hostage crisis.