Trump Says Iran 'Standing Down' After Missile Strikes
U.S. President Donald Trump said Iran appears to be "standing down" following the recent missile strike on U.S targets, as European and Gulf leaders urged the Iranian government to avoid escalating the conflict.
In his first address since the strike, Trump said no Americans were harmed when Iranian forces launched missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S forces early on Wednesday (local time).
"The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime," he said from the White House.
"We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases."
Iranian forces said the strike, which Iran state television claimed killed at least 80 Americans, was in retaliation for the U.S killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on January 3.
But Trump said the outcome signalled an intent to de-escalate already deteriorating relations between Iran and the U.S. and did not announce any military action.
"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," he said, adding "American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent".
"The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it," he said.
Instead, Trump indicated the U.S. would immediately put in place new economic sanctions on Iran, but he did not offer any further details.
Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and military officers, the U.S President urged world powers, including Russia and China, to abandon the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.
He added he will ask NATO to become "much more involved in Middle East process."
U.S. officials said "more than a dozen ballistic missiles" had been launched at two bases in Iraq housing American military forces -- at al-Asad and Erbil.
Iranian officials reported earlier that its military had taken responsibility for the missile strike on the al-Asad airbase in Iraq, an important American military installation in the region.
The country's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed its air force had launched "tens" of missiles.
It comes days after Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani was killed in an American strike -- an attack Iran promised "crushing revenge" in response to.
In his address, Trump described Soleimani as "the world's top terrorist" who was “responsible for some of the absolute worst atrocities” in the Middle East.
“In recent days, he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him,” Trump said.
"Soleimani’s hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood. He should have been terminated long ago.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will convene the national security committee to discuss the "concerning" situation as it develops.
In a statement, Morrison said Australian officials were monitoring the situation and working to ensure the safety of Australians in the region.
"The Prime Minister has directed the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) to take whatever actions are necessary to protect and defend our ADF and diplomatic personnel and keep Australians safe," he said.
The Australian Defence Force has troops close to the Al-Assad base and around 300 more at Taji in northern Iraq.
It comes as leaders in Europe and the Gulf condemned the strikes, urging the Iranian government to avoid escalating the conflict.
At the first Prime Minister's Questions session since last month's UK election victory, British PM Boris Johnson condemned the attack, saying "Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation."
Johnson said there were no British casualties from the missile strikes, adding Britain believes the Iranian nuclear deal remains the best way of "preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran".
"We think that after this crisis has abated, which of course we sincerely hope it will, that way forward will remain," he said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also condemned the attacks and called on Iran “to refrain from all steps that could lead to a further escalation”.
He said Germany was in contact with all parties “to calm things down”, adding "we all have to show restraint and prudence in this situation".
Gulf leaders have also signalled calls for restraint, including Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Anwar Gargash, who stressed de-escalation is both "wise and necessary".
“A political path towards stability must follow," he said.