- President Trump debunks claims that US soldiers were killed in the Iranian missile attack
- Says America wants a great future for the people of Iran
- The US president however announced plans to impose new sanctions on Iran
US president Donald Trump surprised many watchers of the unfolding tension in the Middle East on Wednesday when he declared that the US is ready to embrace peace “with all those who seek peace”.
Trump said this in a broadcast at the White House following Tuesday’s retaliatory attack on US airbases in Iraq by Iran.
Flanked by senior government officials and military top brass, the US president dismissed unsubstantiated claims that American troops were killed by missiles fired by Iran.
Both the US and Iran had traded threats after the ‘assassination’ of Iranian revered army general, Qasem Soleimani, in a US drone attack, with President Trump warning that the US would hit Iran “hard and fast” with the best military hardware in the world if Iran dared retaliate.
Iran picked up the gauntlet, nonetheless, and launched missile attacks on two US airbases in Iraq, leading to apprehension that the action might trigger a possible cycle of retaliation that could lead to an all-out war.
“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 in apparent capitulation from his red line posture.
“To the people and leaders of Iran, we want you to have a future and a great future, one that you deserve. One of prosperity at home and harmony with the nations of the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,” he said.
However, the US strongman, in the same breath, announced plans to impose fresh sanctions on Iran in response to the attack on American assets in Iraq.
“The United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime,” he declared.
“These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behaviour. In recent months alone, Iran has seized ships in international waters, fired an unprovoked strike on Saudi Arabia and shot down two American drones,” recalled Trump.
He vowed that as long as he remains president, Iran would never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.
You may also read: Iran launches revenge attacks on US forces in Iraq
Trump did not let slip the opportunity to remind Iran and the world of America’s military might.
“Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast. 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. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.”
Not all Trump ‘allies’ are happy with the way the president has conducted the Iran affair. Two Republican senators expressed their dissent publicly. GOP senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who described himself as a friend and supporter of President Trump, decried the fact that Trump went to ‘war’ without congressional approval. He classified the killing of a top general in a sovereign country as an act of war.
Like Paul, a visibly angry Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah, complained about the legality and appropriateness of the “military intervention against Iran” and the fact that specific evidence was not provided by the administration on the claimed imminence of the threats that precipitated the elimination of Soleimani. Senator Lee told the CNN that the briefing on the Iran strike was “insulting” to the constitution, “un-American” and “unacceptable”.
Trump is said to have contemplated hitting back when he was briefed on Tuesday’s attack, which Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tagged “a slap in the face of the US”. But he decided to hold back because no US soldier was killed by Iran.
For how long can he exercise restraint in the face of continued threats by Iran to attack the US and its allies?
Watch this space for updates.