Trump: Iran ‘appears to be standing down’ after missile attacks

President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the White House on the ballistic missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing US troops. (AP)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Trump: Iran ‘appears to be standing down’ after missile attacks

  • European Council’s Charles Michel urges Tehran to come back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal
  • Britain committed to Iranian nuclear deal, PM Boris Johnson’s spokesman says

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said Wednesday Iran appeared to be “standing down” after missile strikes on US troop bases in Iraq that resulted in no American or Iraqi deaths.
“All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases. Our great American forces are prepared for anything,” he said in an address to the nation from the White House.
“Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world. No American or Iraqi lives were lost.”

Trump said the United States would immediately be imposing “additional punishing sanctions” on Iran but made no mention of military retaliation to the missile attacks — seen by experts as a measured first response by Iran to the killing of General Qassem Soleimani in an American drone strike in Baghdad.
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.




An image grab from footage obtained from the state-run Iran Press news agency on January 8, 2020 allegedly shows rockets launched from the Islamic republic against the US military base in Ein-al Asad in Iraq. (File/AFP)

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.
He also called for world powers to follow his lead in withdrawing last May from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson underlined Britain’s continued commitment to the Iranian nuclear deal, Johnson’s spokesman said on Thursday.

“The prime minister spoke with President Rouhani of Iran this morning. They discussed the situation in the region following the death of Qassem Soleimani and the prime minister called for an end to hostilities,” the spokesman told reporters.

“The prime minister underlined the UK’s continued commitment to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal) and to ongoing dialogue to avoid nuclear proliferation and reduce tensions,” he said, adding that Britain’s position was that the JCPOA was the best arrangement available.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, on Thursday also said that he has spoken to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, and has urged Tehran to come back into compliance with the  nuclear deal.
The agreement is already unraveling, with Tehran announcing on Sunday that 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 recognize this reality. They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal, or JCPOA,” Trump said.
“We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.”
He addressed Iranians directly, saying 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 air base in western Iraq and a base in Irbil, both housing American and other foreign troops deployed as part of a US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Daesh group.
Iran’s supreme leader called the attacks a “slap in the face” for the United States but said revenge was yet to come for the killing of Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm.


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”