NEW YORK, – US President Trump signaled a de-escalation of tensions with Iran Wednesday in the wake of latter’s retaliatory attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops, saying no one was killed and that Tehran indicated its Tuesday’s action would be the end of its vengeance for the killing of a top general.“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 a televised statement from the White House, flanked by his vice president, cabinet secretaries and senior military officers in their uniforms.
In Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan also underscored the need for de-escalation, saying war was in nobody’s interest and “made it clear that Pakistan would not be part of any conflict in the region”.
Reading carefully from teleprompters, Trump announced that his administration would once again slap Iran with more sanctions and demanded that US allies leave the nuclear deal so a new pact can be negotiated.
In his speech, President Trump vowed again not to let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon and warned it against future terrorism or destabilizing actions in the region, but otherwise avoided the threats of additional use of force that had characterized his public remarks in recent days.
Instead, he said he would impose more economic sanctions on Iran and called on NATO allies to become more involved in the Middle East.
“The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,” he said.
At the same time, Trump seemed to keep his options open by explicitly describing American military readiness.
“Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast,” he said, a warning tucked into a speech that otherwise indicated an easing of strain.
“The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it,” Trump said. “We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.”
His comments came the morning after Iran fired a reported 22 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house the United States troops in response to last week’s American drone strike that killed Maj Gen Qassim Suleimani, commander of Iran’s elite security and intelligence forces. No American troops were injured or killed in the attacks, the president said.
In the hours since, some analysts expressed cautious optimism that the missile strikes might prove the end of the immediate conflict rather than the start of a larger confrontation that could spiral into a full-fledged war. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said afterward that Iran had “concluded proportionate measures” in its retribution for General Suleimani’s death, and Trump’s response seemed to indicate an openness to letting it go without further reprisals since no casualties were reported.
But analysts cautioned that even if the two sides ease off a further military clash in the short term, the conflict could very well play out in other ways in the weeks and months to come.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran made clear that his country still saw its mission over the long run as driving the United States out of the Middle East after the killing of General Suleimani. “Our final answer to his assassination will be to kick all US forces out of the region,” Mr. Rouhani wrote on Twitter.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, likewise suggested on Wednesday that an incremental operation would not be the end of the clash. “What matters is that the presence of America, which is a source of corruption in this region, should come to an end,” he said in a speech to a hall filled with imams and others.
Trump’s televised statement on Wednesday was his first formal effort to explain the situation to the country since ordering the drone strike on General Suleimani last Thursday. He has fired off tweets and spoken with reporters a couple of times since then without making an official speech outlining his thinking.
The administration’s messages up until now have at times been conflicting and confusing. The president was forced to walk back threats to target Iranian cultural sites after his defence secretary made clear that would be a war crime.
The American headquarters in Baghdad had drafted a letter saying it was withdrawing from Iraq only to have the Defence Department say it was a draft document with no authority.