“I’m pleased to inform you: The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.,” Trump said. “We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.”
While “our great American forces are prepared for anything,” Trump said, “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”
Trump started off the address by stating: “As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” He later defended the recent airstrike against Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who he described as the “world’s top terrorist.”
Trump appeared with a number of high-ranking officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at two or more bases housing U.S. and coalition forces, the Pentagon said late Tuesday.
Some lawmakers said in initial reactions that reports indicating no Americans died in the strikes meant Trump didn’t need to respond with military action.
“Iran is already directly responsible for the death of more than 600 men and women of the United States military. I am grateful that number didn’t increase tonight. Terrorism supporters Khamenei and Rouhani should be thankful as well,” Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said in a statement late Tuesday.
“The best way America responds to terrorism is not with war, but strength founded in national unity. For those who have spent the last three years screaming ‘country over party,’ it’s time to put your country over Iran.”
Many Republicans praised Trump’s statement Wednesday. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said: “A homerun speech by President @realDonaldTrump about the challenges we face with Iran. It was measured and firm. To the Iranian people: President Trump laid out a pathway forward for peace and prosperity. I hope you take it.”
Leading Democrats condemned the strikes from Iran, but many members of the party said Trump didn’t have the power to wage war with Iran amid a push to strip war power resolutions passed shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks.
“The American people do not want a war with Iran, and the president does not have the authority to wage one,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor earlier Wednesday.
He said the United States should exit so-called “forever wars.”
Military leaders briefed the full Congress on Wednesday about the strike against Soleimani and other recent developments, shortly after Trump spoke. House Foreign Affairs Committee member Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told reporters that the briefing was “utterly unconvincing,” adding: “I believe more than ever that Congress needs to act to protect the Constitutional provisions about war and peace.”
Iranian leaders have said the attacks were a “proportionate” response to the recent killing of Soleimani, who was taken out by a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad on Jan. 2.
“Iran took [and] concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said late Tuesday.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that military action like the strikes wouldn’t be “sufficient.”
“What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region,” he said. Iran’s leaders have repeatedly said Washington should withdraw troops from the region.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during his weekly cabinet meeting, which was broadcast on state television: “They cut the hand off our dear Soleimani—and you saw his dear hand next to his body in pictures and videos. As revenge, we will cut off the U.S.’s feet from this region.”