President Donald Trump predicted on Wednesday that Iran is backing away from the brink of war after launching airstrikes on two bases that house American troops in Iraq. Noting that the missiles did not result in any casualties, 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 attack was in retaliation for the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. The leader of Iran’s security and intelligence forces died in a drone strike on Friday. Trump’s remarks in the White House, delivered while generals and officials flanked the U.S. leader, represent his first formal public statements since tensions began mounting between the two countries. He used them to decry the Iran nuclear deal signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, a pact that he pulled the U.S. out of in 2018, and asked other countries such as the U.K., China, Russia, Germany and France to push for a new pact.
“We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place,” he said.
The Trump administration has justified the assassination of Suleimani as necessary because they claim he was coordinating an imminent attack that would have harmed Americans. In his remarks on Wednesday, Trump labelled Suleimani the “world’s top terrorist.”
“He trained terrorist armies, including Hezbollah, launching terrorist strikes against civilian targets,” Trump said. “He fueled bloody civil wars all across the region. He viciously wounded and murdered thousands of US troops, including the planting of roadside bombs that maim and dismember their victims.”
“His hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood,” he added.
Democratic lawmakers have expressed skepticism and accused the president of acting recklessly and taking actions that potentially will tip the U.S. into a war with Iran.
“If that’s what the law is — I like to obey the law. But think of it, they kill our people, they blow up our people and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions,” Trump said Tuesday.
On Twitter, Trump has claimed that the U.S. has “targeted 52 Iranian sites,” a number that was intended to reference the 52 Americans who were held hostage in a diplomatic standoff that lasted between Nov. 4, 1979, to Jan. 20, 1981. The president said those sites include Iranian cultural sites, which would be in violation of international law. He has since walked back those threats, telling reporters this week, “I like to obey the law.”
Trump said on Wednesday he will institute harsher sanctions on Iran and announced he will call on NATO to get more involved in the Middle East. He also extended something of an olive branch to Iran.
“To the people and leaders of Iran, we want you to have a future and a great future, one that you deserve,” Trump said. “One of prosperity at home and harmony with the nations of the world.”
Trump, who did not take questions, did praise his own actions. He claimed that the U.S. was now safer because his administration had enabled America to achieve “energy independence,” making it less reliant on the Middle East.