US President Donald Trump on Wednesday tempered days of angry rhetoric and suggested that Iran was “standing down” after it fired missiles at US forces in Iraq, Reuters reports.
Trump said the United States does not necessarily have to respond militarily to Iran’s attack on military bases housing US troops in Iraq, itself an act of retaliation for the Jan. 3 US strike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.
“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,” Trump said.
The president said no Americans were hurt in the overnight attacks. According to the Pentagon, Iran had launched 16 short-range ballistic missiles, at least 11 of which hit Iraq’s al-Asad air base and one that hit a facility in Erbil but caused no major damage.
“Our great American forces are prepared for anything. 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 Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a gathering of people, said the missile attacks were a “slap on the face” of the United States and that US troops should leave the region.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had said the strikes “concluded” Tehran’s response to the killing of Soleimani.
The slain general was buried in his hometown, Kerman, after days of national mourning.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.
Influential Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who casts himself as a nationalist rejecting both US and Iranian interference in Iraq, also said the crisis Iraq was experiencing was over and he urged militia groups not to carry out attacks.
“I call on the Iraqi factions to be deliberate, patient, and not to start military actions,,” said Sadr, whom Washington has long regarded as an Iranian ally.
While the rhetoric softened, two rockets fell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, causing no casualties, the Iraqi military said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Democratic US lawmakers and some Republicans said administration officials had not provided evidence in classified briefings on Wednesday to back up assertions by Trump and military commanders that Soleimani had posed an “imminent threat” to the United States.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic-led chamber would vote on a resolution intended to limit Trump’s military actions against Iran.
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