US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Iranian missile strikes on bases in Iraq did not harm any US troops stationed there and damage was minimal, an outcome he said showed Tehran wanted to de-escalate a standoff.
Iran “appears to be standing down”, Trump said at the White House amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran over the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq last week.
Trump announced the US would immediately impose new “powerful” sanctions until “Iran changes its behaviour”.
The comments were Trump’s first televised remarks since Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops. Trump also said there were no Iraqi casualties.
“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 in a speech that struck a noticeably different tone than his tweets following the attack on Soleimani in which he threatened to “fully strike back” if Iran attacked any US citizen or site.
Iran said Wednesday’s attacks against an Iraqi base in Erbil and the Ain al-Asad base in western Iraq were revenge for the killing of Soleimani. It warned the US against retaliating for the strikes.
Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei said Iran’s attacks were a “slap on the face” of the US and said US troops should leave the region.
Tehran’s foreign minister said Iran took “proportionate measures” in self-defence and did not seek an escalation.