1 of 5 | President Donald Trump responds to missile attacks by Iran against U.S. military bases in Iraq in a national address Wednesday. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 8 (UPI) -- In a national address Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump responded to Iranian missile attacks on two bases in Iraq by saying Americans should be "extremely grateful and happy" that no U.S. troops were hurt.
Trump delivered his remarks in the grand foyer of the White House.
"We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases," he said.
Trump added that Iran appeared to "stand down" after the attacks, which were retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last week. In his speech Wednesday, the president called Soleimani a "ruthless terrorist" who should have been "taken out long ago."
"Our great American forces are prepared for anything," he said. "Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.
"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. Those days are over. Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world. We will never let that happen."
U.S. defense officials said more than a dozen Iranian ballistic missiles were fired earlier Wednesday from inside Iran toward two U.S. facilities in Erbil and al-Asad, Iraq, which housed U.S. and coalition troops.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said casualties were avoided due to an early warning but that Iran intended to kill U.S. troops in the strike contrary to other officials that have said Iran intentionally directed missiles away from areas that were populated by Americans.
"I believe based on what I saw and what I know that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That's my own personal assessment," he said.
Hours before Trump's remarks, Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the United States the missile strikes were merely a "slap on the face" and blamed corruption in the Middle East on the continued U.S. military presence.
"What is important about confrontation is that the military action as such is not sufficient. What is important is that the seditious American presence in the region must end," Khamenei said.
In his comments, Trump promised new sanctions for Tehran and framed the military action against Soleimani as beneficial to the national interest.
"We took decisive action to stop a ruthless terrorist from threatening American lives," the president said. "At my direction, the United States military eliminated the world's top terrorist, Qassem Soleimani. As the head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was personally responsible for some of the absolutely worst atrocities.
"As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior."
Trump said he would ask NATO Wednesday to become more involved in the Middle East and signaled to Iran that further provocation will bring serious consequences.
"U.S. Armed Forces are stronger than ever before. Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast," he said. "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."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that the House will vote on Thursday on a War Powers Resolution to limit Trump's ability to engage in conflict with Iran without the approval of Congress.
"Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward. Our concerns were not addressed by the president's insufficient War Powers Act notification and by the administration's briefing today," she said.
Pelosi added that the House may soon also consider additional legislation including prohibiting funding for military action against Iran not authorized by Congress and a resolution to repeal the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force.