Updated 1:15 PM ET
U.S. President Donald Trump made a statement Wednesday morning at 11:30 AM EST and announced that Iran “appears to be standing down” following strikes on U.S. air bases in Iraq. He said there were no American or Iraqi casualties resulting from the attacks.
Trump said that while the U.S. was evaluating its options, it would “immediately impose additional punishing sanctions” against Iran until it “changes its behavior.” He called Iran the “leading sponsor of terrorism” and repeatedly said that he would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Since 2017, the Trump administration has imposed unprecedented sanctions on Iran, which have devastated the country’s economy.
The president also announced his intention to call on NATO allies for assistance in the Middle East, saying that the UK, Germany, France, and China needed to “break away from the remnants of the Iran deal or JCPOA,” calling the original agreement “very defective.”
In his statement, Trump said that the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani came at his direction, describing Soleimani as the “world’s top terrorist.” U.S. statements on Soleimani, who was credited with helping lead the fight against ISIS, have evolved. Journalist Lee Fang noted that Gen. Stanley McChrystal told BBC last year: “I don’t think we should view him as an evil person. I think we should view him just like, ‘I believe in my country.’ I think Qassem Suleimani believes in his country.”
Fascinating to compare Trump’s recent statements on Soleimani with past remarks by US officials and journalists https://t.co/MlmO93Zulu
— Jaisal Noor (@jaisalnoor) January 8, 2020
11:05 AM EST
Iran launched more than 20 missiles against U.S. bases at Al-Assad and Erbil overnight Wednesday in retaliation for the assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last week. The attacks reportedly did not result in any U.S. or Iraqi casualties, according to Iraqi officials. Reuters is reporting buildings in the northern Iraqi town of Duhok were damaged in the strike.
The attacks are reportedly the first time Iran has directly carried out missile strikes on U.S. forces. University of Michigan History Professor Juan Cole told Democracy Now! the strikes were “unprecedented” and the situation threatened to spiral out of control.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq tweeted: “Recent missile attacks in Erbil and Anbar governorates only escalate conflict, and again violate Iraqi sovereignty. Senseless violence has predictable effects. Iraq should not pay the price for external rivalries.”
Recent missile attacks in Erbil and Anbar governorates only escalate conflict, and again violate Iraqi sovereignty. Senseless violence has predictable effects. We call for urgent restraint and a resumption of dialogue. Iraq should not pay the price for external rivalries.
— UNAMI (@UNIraq) January 8, 2020
U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to make a televised address at 11:00 AM ET Wednesday morning. Trump previously threatened via Twitter to strike 52 Iranian targets, including cultural sites, if Iran retaliated for the killing of Soleimani. The Pentagon ruled out striking civilian or cultural targets. The U.S. has not presented the evidence it says justifies Soleimani’s assassination.
“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the strikes “a slap on the face” of the U.S.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper tweeted: “The United States does not seek conflict, but will respond forcefully if necessary.” Since 2017, the Trump administration has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, which has devastated the country’s economy.
Iraq’s outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was reportedly warned by Iran about the impending attacks. He had previously called on U.S. troops to leave. Iraq is experiencing renewed anti-government protests, and organizers there have called for a day of action on Jan. 10 to end U.S. and Iranian influence in the country.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday night in Tehran, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 jet crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 passengers. Passengers included Iranian, Canadian, Ukrainian, Swedish, Afghan, German, and British nationals. The crash was initially blamed on engine or technical failure. Investigations are ongoing.
Activists with groups like Indivisible, MoveOn, About Face: Veterans Against the War have organized nationwide protests at over 200 locations against a possible war on Iran on Jan. 9.