President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that no Americans were harmed in the attack by Iran on US bases in Iraq as he offered to embrace peace with the Iranian leadership, in a significant move to de-escalate spiralling tensions in the Middle East.
His remarks came hours after Iran launched 22 ballistic missiles in a pre-dawn attack on Wednesday targeting at least two bases where US military and coalition forces are stationed in Iraq, which Tehran said was a “slap in the face” of America.
“We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases,” Trump said in his 10-minute address to the nation from the White House Grand Foyer.
According to the Iranian state TV, the attacks were in revenge for the killing of commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards General Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike on Friday, which was ordered by Trump.
The Iranian state television claimed that “at least 80 terrorist US soldiers” were killed in the strikes. Some 5,000 US soldiers are in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the IS terror group.
“No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime,” Trump said as he described Gen Soleimani as a “ruthless terrorist.”
“In recent days he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him,” Trump said.
“By removing Soleimani we have sent a powerful message to terrorists. If you value your own life you will not threaten the lives of our people. Soleimani’s hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood. He should have been eliminated long ago.” he said.
Trump called on Iran to “work together” to eliminate the Islamic State, saying the killing of ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was “good” for Iran.
In a direct message to the Iranian leaders and the people, Trump said the United States was “ready to embrace peace with all who seek it”.
“To the people and leaders of Iran, we want you to have a future and a great future, one that you deserve,” the president said.
Trump said Iran appeared to be standing down, which was a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.
“For far too long, all the way back to 1979 to be exact, nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilising behaviour in the Middle East and beyond. Those days are over,” he said, adding that peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment terrorism.
Trump also asked NATO “to become much more involved in the Middle East process.”
He vowed that he will never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.
“As long as I’m President of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said.
President Trump criticised the Barack Obama-era Iran nuclear deal as “very defective” and “foolish.”
“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,” Trump said.
“The very defective nuclear deal expires shortly, anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout. Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism,” Trump said.
Iran on Wednesday announced that it was partially withdrawing from the deal.
Trump, who has already withdrawn from the deal arguing that it does not meet the desired objective, called on other allies to “break away” from the deal.
“The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China to recognise this reality. They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal who are Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). And we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a more safer and peaceful place,” he said.
“We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential. Iran can be a great country,” Trump said.
The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime thet “your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer. It will not be allowed to go forward,” he said. Asserting that America has achieved energy independence, Trump said US did not “need Middle East oil.
“We are now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil,” he said.
Trump also said that his administration will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on Iran.
“These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behaviour,” Trump said.
Oil price losses deepened after Trump hinted at easing tensions over Iran, with New York prices sliding 4.6 per cent.