Iran appears to be standing down after attacks: Trump

US President Donald Trump delivers a statement about Iran flanked by US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Vice President Mike Pence and military leaders in the Grand Foyer at the White House in Washington on Jan 8, 2020.
US President Donald Trump delivers a statement about Iran flanked by US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Vice President Mike Pence and military leaders in the Grand Foyer at the White House in Washington on Jan 8, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

US President confirms zero casualties from strikes on two Iraqi bases housing US troops

In a White House address that signalled a desire to de-escalate the crisis with Iran, US President Donald Trump said no Americans were harmed in the Iranian missile attacks on military bases in Iraq.

"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," he said in his televised appearance yesterday.

"No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.

"The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it," he added, stopping short of making any direct threat of military action against Iran.

Iran's show of force in the early hours yesterday with the launch of almost two dozen missiles at two joint US-Iraq military bases in retaliation for the killing last week of top general Qassem Soleimani was preceded by a verbal warning to the Iraqi military of the strikes.

The tip-off was, in turn, relayed to the Americans in what appears to have been a deliberate move by Teheran to leave room for de-escalation in its stand-off with the United States, while also assuaging war-like cries for revenge at home.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised address yesterday that the US had been given a "crushing response" to the killing of the general. He also called for the US to leave the Middle East.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it had "concluded proportionate measures in self-defence" and did not seek further escalation or war.

Turkey has said it is willing to mediate between the US and Iran.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due to visit Iraq today "within the context of our intensified diplomatic efforts to alleviate the escalated tension in the aftermath of recent developments", the ministry said in a statement.

The missile attacks drew widespread condemnation. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) chief Jens Stoltenberg denounced them, tweeting: "Nato calls on Iran to refrain from further violence."

 
 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament: "Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation."

In Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates' Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei also called for cooler heads, telling reporters: "We are hoping the wisdom of both sides will de-escalate the tension".

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there is an "urgent need for all parties to exercise maximum restraint and de-escalate tensions and return to dialogue and diplomacy to resolve their differences".

The ministry added that in view of the volatile security situation, particularly in Iraq and Iran, Singaporeans were strongly advised against travelling to or remaining in those two countries.

The current crisis has deep roots, but the present phase has been building up since Mr Trump withdrew from the multilateral Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018 - a move widely seen as destabilising the region.

Mr Trump maintained that the deal would eventually allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

Yesterday, he urged world powers to forge a new nuclear deal with Teheran.

 
 

"As long as I'm president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon," he said.

"We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place."

That Iran seemed to have intentionally avoided casualties does not mean an end to the conflict, cautioned Dr Ian Bremmer, the New York-based chief executive of Eurasia Group, a consulting firm on political risks.

"But for everyone who thought killing Soleimani was going to lead to war, no... it established red lines and deterrence," he tweeted. "If US now wants to engage in diplomacy, there's a real window."

In what seems to be an unrelated development, a Ukrainian passenger jet crashed early yesterday morning shortly after take-off from Teheran, killing all on board.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2020, with the headline 'Iran appears to be standing down after attacks: Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe