Washington: President Donald Trump on Wednesday said Iran appears to be “standing down” and no Americans or Iraqis were harmed in Iran's missile strikes on two Iraqi bases housing US troops.
Iranian state media had earlier claimed that the missile attacks had killed 80 Americans.
The US and Iran stepped back from the brink of possible war as Trump indicated he would not respond militarily.
Speaking from the White House, Trump seemed intent on deescalating the crisis, indicating he would not retaliate militarily for the strikes. Instead, he said the US would immediately put in place new economic sanctions “until Iran changes its behaviour” after that country's most brazen direct assault on America since the 1979 seizing of the US Embassy in Tehran.
Launched for the first time by forces inside Iran instead of a proxy, the missile attack marked a new turn in the intensifying confrontation between Washington and Tehran and sent world oil prices soaring.
The strikes had pushed Tehran and Washington perilously close to all-out conflict and put the world's attention on Trump as he weighed whether to respond with more military force. The Republican president delivered his remarks surrounded by his national security advisers in the foyer of the White House. It came after a late-night tweet in which he insisted “All is well!” after the strikes.
The attack came days after Trump authorised the targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Iran had pledged to retaliate, bringing the two countries closer to the brink of war.
Trump credited an early warning system “that worked very well" for the fact that no Americans or Iraqis were killed in the missile strikes on bases in Iraq, an outcome he said showed Tehran wanted to de-escalate a standoff.
“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,” he said.
“No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases," Trump said in an address to the nation, adding that Americans should be “extremely grateful and happy” with the outcome.
Trump, who is facing reelection in November, campaigned for president on a promise to keep the US from engaging in “endless war."
'No nuclear weapon for Iran'
Trump reiterated his position that “Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon" and called for new nuclear negotiations to replace the 2015 nuclear deal from which he withdrew the US.
Trump touted economic achievements that he said had made the US less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, changing Washington's “strategic priorities” in the region.
“Today I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process,” he said.
The nuclear agreement is already unravelling, with Tehran announcing on Sunday it would roll back the limit on the number of centrifuges used in uranium enrichment, one of its commitments under the agreement.
“The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognise this reality. They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal, or JCPOA,” Trump said. “We must all work together towards making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.”
Addressing Iranians directly, Trump said the US wanted them to enjoy the “great future” of prosperity and harmony with other nations that they deserve. “The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,” he said.
World leaders have condemned the Iranian missile strikes, which targeted the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, both housing American and other foreign troops deployed as part of a US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who earlier on Wednesday addressed a gathering of Iranians chanting “Death to America”, said Iran's attacks were a “slap on the face” of the US and that American troops should leave the region.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic republic's response to the US strike that killed Soleimani shows "we don't retreat in the face of America".
"If America has committed a crime... it should know that it will receive a decisive response," Rouhani said in a televised address. "If they are wise, they won't take any other action at this juncture."
Tehran's foreign minister said Iran took "proportionate measures" in self-defence and did not seek an escalation.