US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday Iranian missile strikes on bases in Iraq had not harmed any US troops stationed there and damage was minimal, an outcome he said showed Tehran wanted to prevent an escalation into conflict.
Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing US troops in Iraq early on Wednesday, saying it was in retaliation for the killing in a US drone strike of powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on January 3.
“All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases,” Trump said. “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.” “The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it,” the US president said in an address, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and military officers.
He urged world powers to quit a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran that Washington withdrew from in 2018 and work for a new deal, an issue that has been at the heart of rising tension between Washington and Tehran. Iran has rejected new talks.
There was no immediate reaction from Iranian officials to Trump's comments. The semi-official Fars news agency described the US president's remarks as a “big retreat from threats.” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who earlier on Wednesday addressed a gathering of Iranians chanting “Death to America”, said Iran's attacks were a “slap on the face” of the United States and said US troops should leave the region.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had said the strikes “concluded” Tehran's response to the killing of Soleimani, who had been responsible for building up Iran's network of proxy armies across the Middle East. He was buried in his hometown Kerman on Monday after days of national mourning.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he wrote on Twitter.
Trump's reaction in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday's attacks had been to say on Twitter that “All is well!” and that Washington was assessing damage. That early tweet and the comment by Iran's foreign minister had acted to soothe some initial concerns about a wider war and calmed jittery financial markets. Oil prices slipped back after an early spike.