U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced more “punishing” sanctions on Iran, while at the same time urging the “people and leaders” of the Middle East state to unite for “shared priorities.”
Iran on Tuesday launched airstrikes on two U.S. military bases in Iraq in retaliation for America’s killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike last week. Trump reacted to the strike in a televised address to the nation in which he defended Soleimani’s killing and told Americans they should be extremely “grateful” about the death of the head of Iran’s Quds Force.
In the same address, the U.S. president said Washington would respond to the Iranian “aggression” by imposing additional economic sanctions.
Iran’s strike has largely been seen as a proportionate response. Tehran has said it deliberately avoided any casualties to prevent further escalation, but needed to prove to the U.S. it could respond fittingly if needed.
Trump on Wednesday confirmed no Americans had been harmed in the Iranian attacks and appeared to suggest Washington has no plans for any immediate retaliation. “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,” he said, adding it appeared Iran was “standing down… which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”
At the onset of his address, Trump said that no matter what, Iran would not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons “as long as I am president.” However, he said that the U.S. was willing to work with Iran for a “better future,” especially to combat the Islamic State militant group. Part of that ‘future’ appears to be a desire for a new nuclear deal after Trump pulled out of the 2015 deal that had been inked by Barack Obama.
The U.S. president also announced that while he wanted peace, he would seek greater NATO involvement in the Middle East process to reduce America’s role.