Trump addresses nation: 'Iran appears to be standing down'
'Our great American forces are prepared for anything'
President Trump said Wednesday that Iran seems to be pulling back from a recent escalation in tensions with the U.S. that culminated in missile strikes on American forces in Iraq after the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani, a powerful figure in Tehran whom Washington viewed as a terrorist.
"No Americans were harmed in last night's attack," Trump said in a speech to the nation from the White House. "All of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases. Our great American forces are prepared for anything. Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world."
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Trump said the U.S. will toughen sanctions against Iran, which he already ramped up after pulling out from a multilateral nuclear agreement in 2018, until the country "changes its behavior." Iranian leaders have said they are not open to talks with the U.S. until sanctions are removed.
"As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon," Trump said.
"Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast," he continued. "Under construction are many hypersonic missiles. 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."
Trump told Iranians that "we want you to have a future and a great future, one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home in harmony."
Iran doesn't seek war either, Foreign Affairs Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on Tuesday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is a key foreign policy figure, described Trump's speech as a "home run."
“To the Iranian people: President Trump laid out a pathway forward for peace and prosperity. I hope you take it," Graham said in a statement. “To the world: President Trump correctly identified the 40-year history of Iranian hostility and destabilization of the region. I hope you will help President Trump change the regime’s behavior so we can avoid a war."
Earlier this week, Democrats urged Trump to tamp down tensions with Iran and pull the nation back from the brink of full-scale military conflict. The real estate mogul, who is seeking reelection at the end of the year, campaigned for president in 2016 on a promise to keep the United States from engaging in "endless wars."
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Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the administration needs to quickly "extricate us from what could lead into a full-fledged war with terrible casualties." Engel said he feared the situation "spirals out of control."
Already, Iran has said it would no longer be bound by its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iraq's parliament voted to expel U.S. troops, which would undermine efforts to fight Islamic State militants in the region and strengthen Iran's influence in the Mideast.
Top Senate Democrats, citing "deep concern" about the lack of information from the Trump administration about the Iran operation, called on Defense Department officials to provide "regular briefings and documents" to Congress.
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Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and others said in a letter Wednesday that the White House's classified War Powers notification to Congress was "generic, vague, and entirely inconsistent in its level of detail" compared with the norm.
"While recognizing the need for operations security, we similarly believe there is a requirement to be transparent with the American people about how many troops this administration plans to deploy in support of contingency plans," Schumer, Sen. Dick Durbin and the Armed Services Committee's Sen. Jack Reed wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“When we looked at this operation, we knew there would be consequences,” Milley said. “We knew there'd be risk." But the threat of attack on U.S. interests was too great not to act, he said.
The Islamic State evolved in Syria after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011; and its fighters swept back across the border in 2014, captured wide swaths of western and northern Iraq and imposed brutal rule over a self-declared “caliphate.”
A U.S.-led coalition finally ousted the group from the last of its territory in Syria in March 2019, but thousands of fighters are scattered throughout the region and continue to pose a threat.
Esper agreed on Tuesday that “the suspension of activities in Iraq” against the Islamic State was a possible outcome of Soleimani's killing.
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., wrote that "Americans are more safe with President Trump at the helm" after Wednesday's speech.
"We need to continue to apply maximum pressure using Trump's three-pronged approach (economic, diplomatic and military) to get Tehran to the table and strike a new deal that includes two action items for Iran: 1) Stop funding terrorists and 2) End pursuit of nuclear weapons," Banks wrote on Twitter before Trump spoke on Wednesday. He's a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
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FOX Business' Ken Martin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.