President Donald Trump appeared buoyant Wednesday morning as he addressed the nation from the White House, hours after more than a dozen Iranian ballistic missiles were fired at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.
"People should be extremely grateful and happy," he said. "No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime. ... We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers were safe and only minimal damage was sustained."
While it has been widely reported that Iran provided advance notice of the attack, Trump said the missiles also caused little damage "because of the dispersal of U.S. forces and an early warning system that worked very well."
He threatened additional economic sanctions on Iran, but drew back from ordering retaliation for the strike.
"Iran appears to be standing down," Trump said.
The speech had been widely anticipated following the missile strikes and the Jan. 3 deadly U.S. strike on Iranian Quds force leader Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport amid fears that the U.S. and Iran were on the brink of full-scale war.
To underline the importance of the speech, arrayed behind Trump at the White House were Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley and all the service chiefs.
Trump made no apologies, which had been demanded by the Iranians for the killing of Soleimani. He said that Soleimani had fueled bloody civil wars throughout the region and "murdered thousands of U.S. troops" since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Iran's initial reactions appeared to reflect a degree of conciliation.
In a tweet, Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif said that Iran "took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched."
Zarif added that Iran did not "seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."
However, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said U.S. troops must leave Iraq and the Middle East to avoid future hostilities.
The U.S. has already imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, which have stirred street unrest over a failing economy and a violent response from the regime. But Trump said that more sanctions are required to curb what the U.S. military calls Iran's "malign activities."
"As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iran's aggression, the U.S. will immediately impose additional punishing sanctions on the regime," he said. "These sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior."
Trump also warned Iran against enriching uranium to weapons grade in its nuclear programs. Even before giving a "good morning" to his White House audience, he said, "as long as I'm president, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon."
Despite the announcement of new sanctions, and the continued criticism of the Tehran regime, Trump's first formal address on the Iran crisis appeared to take on a new tone of conciliation.
In his closing remarks, he spoke directly to the Iranian people: "We want you to have a future, and a great future, one that you deserve. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it."
-- Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this report.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.