Trump warns Iran but says US ‘ready to embrace peace with all who seek it’
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Grand Foyer of the White House hours after Iran rained more than a dozen rockets down on airbases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. Iranians said the attack was in response to a U.S. drone strike last week that killed Qasem Soleimani, one of Tehran’s most powerful leaders.
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11:48 a.m. EST
Warning and olive branch
Trump ended his remarks at 11:37 a.m. after speaking for nine minutes.
The president threatened Iran with additional sanctions and said his administration is considering its “options.” He also appeared to offer the Iranians an olive branch, signaling the United States does not seek a war with Tehran.
The president signaled he was open to negotiations with Iran, an offer he has made at other times since pulling out of the multinational Iran nuclear accord in 2018. Tehran has rebuffed the overtures, saying it already negotiated a deal that the U.S. abandoned. Iran has also demanded a lifting of sanctions imposed under the Trump administration.
“We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place,” Trump said. “We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential.”
11:42 a.m. EST
Trump delivers message to Iran
The president spoke directly to Iranian leaders, insisting the United States wants them to have a “great future, one that you deserve – one of prosperity at home and harmony with the nations of the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.”
11:38 a.m. EST
Trump urges NATO to take larger role
The president said he plans to ask NATO allies to “become much more involved in the Middle East process.”
He touted the U.S. economy, American energy independence and a stronger military under his leadership, adding they are accomplishments “nobody thought were possible.”
11:37 a.m. EST
Iran nuclear deal
Trump called on the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China to break off from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
11:35 a.m. EST
Trump to impose more sanctions on Iran
Trump said his administration will impose new sanctions on Iran in response to the attack. He did not specify how those sanctions would be applied.
“These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior,” Trump said.
11:33 a.m. EST
‘Those days are over’
“For far too long, all the way back to 1979 to be exact, nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond,” Trump said.
“Those days are over,” he said.
He called Iran the leading sponsor of terrorism and said its “pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world.”
11:31 a.m. EST
‘All of our soldiers are safe’
Trump said the United States suffered no casualties in Iran’s attacks on military bases in Iraq. “All of our soldiers are safe,” he said.
11:28 a.m. EST
Trump takes the podium
“As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said.
11:22 a.m. EST
Speech taking place in Grand Foyer
Trump will take the podium in the Grand Foyer. Also called the Entrance Hall, it is the primary, formal entrance to the White House. Partially covered by a red carpet, it’s where presidents often deliver major addresses to the nation.
11:09 a.m. EST
What to watch for
Will Trump pump the brakes on escalating tensions with Iran or add fuel to the fire? Initial assessments from the Pentagon indicate the Iranian attack inflicted minimal damage and no casualties. If those reports are accurate, it could provide Trump the off-ramp he needs to avoid war with one of America’s most challenging foes.
The Trump administration’s messaging has been inconsistent. Trump threatened to target Iranian cultural sites, then backed away. A Pentagon letter suggesting the United States was withdrawing from Iraq (a goal for Iran) was leaked, then dismissed by senior officials as a mistake. Trump’s remarks will provide an opportunity to clear up those and other matters and define U.S. intentions in the region.
10:58 a.m. EST
What Trump said the night of the attack
Trump huddled with national security aides late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, officials said, in part to prepare his remarks on the way forward with Iran.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were among the national security officials spotted at the White House early Wednesday.
“All is well!” Trump tweeted. “Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!”
Will Iran attack again?
Another sign of reduced tensions: A U.S. official told USA TODAY that there was advance warning of Iran’s missile assault, allowing the military to take precautions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that Iran “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter,” and that its targets included the military base “from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.”
He said, “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
The latest confrontation between the United States and Iran, perhaps the most dangerous one since the hostage crisis of 1979-80, began last month with an attack by an Iranian-backed militia that killed an American contractor. The United States responded with attacks on militia bases that killed at least two dozen people.
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