NATIONWIDE — President Donald Trump said Wednesday morning that no one was hurt or killed by an Iranian ballistic missile attack on U.S. and coalition forces at two Iraqi air bases, and that Iran “appears to be standing down.”
“I am pleased to inform you, the American people should be extremely grateful and happy, no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime,” he said in an address from the White House.
American troops were safe, and the two Iraqi military bases that house U.S. service members — Ain Assad Air Base and one in the city of Irbil — sustained minimal damage, he said.
Trump underscored the Defense Department’s assertion that defensive measures taken after the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani late last week protected troops and facilities.
“These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“Our great American forces are ready for anything,” Trump said Wednesday.
Trump said U.S. will impose more economic sanctions on Iran, and he called on other NATO member nations to become more involved in the “Middle East process.”
The president’s speech appeared to be a de-escalation of the heightened tensions sparked by the drone strike last week in Baghdad that killed Soleimani. Iran said the missile attacks were in retaliation for the death of the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
The last time Iran had a direct assault on America was in 1979, when the country seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
The president reiterated that Soleimani was planning new attacks “in recent days” but “we stopped him.” Details about the intelligence supporting Soleimani’s plans have been scarce. Lawmakers in recent days have been pressing for more information to explain why the president ordered the deadly drone strike.
Experts say that where the missile attacks happened are telling, as the two bases hit are in areas sparsely populated by civilians, which significantly reduced the risk of collateral damage.
“This is a wounded animal cornered, and it is lashing out in desperation because of the internal situation in that country,” explained retired Col. Jim Waurishuk, who served as U.S. Central Command’s deputy director of intelligence and was also on the White House security council.
What the attacks did do was allow the Iranian regime to tell its own people it struck back at the United States proportionately while also not launching a bigger attack that could have led to a bigger response by the U.S.
“They are not in a position right now to get into that level of war, and I think what is really going to happen is this could be the end of the regime especially if people rise up to where they say they’ve had enough. But I don’t see this coming anywhere close to what people are trying to predict,” Waurishuk said.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East against retaliating, saying, “Any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted.”
Meanwhile, Iraq’s outgoing prime minister said the U.S. needed to pull its troops out of the country. Trump said doing so would allow Iran to gain a greater foothold in the country.
House to vote on war powers resolution
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Democrats were moving forward with a war powers resolution that could curtail military action and funding for operations without congressional approval.
“Today, to honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran,” a statement released by Pelosi’s office said. “This resolution, which will be led by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, will go to the Rules Committee this evening and will be brought to the Floor tomorrow.
“The Administration must work with the Congress to advance an immediate, effective de-escalatory strategy that prevents further violence. America and the world cannot afford war,” the statement said.
This comes after Trump failed to inform Congress before ordering last week’s drone strike that killed Soleimani and prompted the retaliatory strike from Iran.
“The Trump administration is completely ignoring the separation of powers and the powers that the Congress has. We have the war powers,” said Rep. Darren Soto of Florida’s 9th District.
Trump administration officials briefed House and Senate members Wednesday afternoon. Some are convinced the strike that killed Soleimani was warranted.
“This was not only responsible, but I think as commander-in-chief, the president had a duty to take action and stop further bloodshed,” said Republican Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida’s 6th District.
Democrats tend to disagree. But Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Orlando, a former national security specialist at the Pentagon has a different take.
“There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on, on television right now, about what’s going on. But the reality is only the people in that room who had full access to that intel have a full picture of the decision that was made,” the Democrat said.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott blasted Democrats for trying to limit the president’s power, calling the timing inappropriate.
“You want to limit the president’s war powers when Iran is sitting there attacking our military men and women? I mean, who in their right mind doesn’t think we should be defending our men and women in uniform in this country?” the Republican said.
“We all know President Trump doesn’t want to go to war. He wants to reduce all these conflicts we have around the world,” Scott said.