National News, Wednesday, Jan. 8 – Trump Addresses Congress and The Nation on Iran Attacks; U.S. Military Forces on High Alert

Washington – President Trump spoke to the nation in front of cameras on Wednesday and said he believes the situation with Iran is slowing down and perhaps moving to de-escalation, signaling no new U.S. military strikes are coming to Iran and vice versa. 

Iran had sent a missile barrage near Iraqi bases which are housing many U.S. military forces.  No casualties have been reported from the two bases.

“Iran appears to be standing down,” Mr. Trump said his televised address.

Hours after the president spoke, Iraqi security officials said two rockets landed in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions are located.  They said they caused no casualties and it wasn’t clear who had fired them.

While the president signaled an ease in tensions that had been building toward military confrontation, he nonetheless maintained a stern tone in his nearly 10-minute speech.  He vowed to maintain efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and said new sanctions would be imposed against Iran. He again defended the targeted killing of a top military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, calling him a “ruthless terrorist.”

The Pentagon rejected suggestions that the Iranians purposely avoided striking U.S. and Iraqi personnel based at Al Asad air base and at another base in Erbil in northern Iraq.

“I believe based on what I saw, and what I know, that they were intended to cause structural damage—destroy vehicles, equipment and aircraft—and kill personnel,” said Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A U.S. defense official said U.S. early-warning systems detected the incoming ballistic missiles well in advance, giving U.S. and coalition forces time to take protective measures.

Amid lingering uncertainty about Iran’s intentions, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a nationwide joint intelligence bulletin to law-enforcement agencies on Wednesday warning that Iran could carry out physical attacks and cyberattacks against U.S. interests in the near future, according to security officials. Warnings, according to the military, had been in the works for several days and wasn’t prompted by a specific concern or development, one official said.

Mr. Trump didn’t propose negotiations with Iran and fanned partisan fires in Washington by blaming the Obama administration for signing onto a 2015 nuclear deal that freed up Iran’s access to billions of dollars, asserting those funds paid for weapons used in the attack.

Democrats blasted that as false, noting the deal was forged by an international coalition and was meant to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and prod it toward normalized international relations.  As Congressional Democrats downplayed the intelligence that led Mr. Trump to order the Jan. 3 strike against Gen. Soleimani, in Iran the chants of “death to America” are widening.

Earlier today:

WASHINGTON—President Trump will deliver a report today to Congress on the actions his administration has taken on Iran so far and plans to give an assessment on the missile strikes from inside Iran that shot near two military bases in Iraq. 

Neither of those missile attacks resulted in any U.S. casualties and were likely sent as a response of U.S. military taking out Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week.

“All is well!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter late Tuesday.

“Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!”

Mr. Trump was expected to be joined by Vice President Mike Pence for the remarks Wednesday.

Iran sends missiles toward U.S. military bases on same day as General Soleimani’s funeral.

Some lawmakers suggested Iran was trying to make a show of force rather than provoke a greater conflict.

“Worth noting that we already have several indications that this attack may have been aimed at portraying strength inside for Iran and avoiding escalation against a superior military,” tweeted Republican Senator Marco Rubio a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration faces continuing questions from Democrats of course over the intelligence used in the attack on Gen. Soleimani.   Initially, officials said he was planning an imminent attack on Americans, but they have provided few details.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there were “continuing efforts on behalf of this terrorist to build out a network of campaign activities that were going to lead potentially to the death of many more Americans.”

Vice President Mike Pence briefed top Democrats in Congress yesterday in a brief meeting on the Iranian strikes on installations in Iraq holding U.S. forces. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both confirmed they spoke with the vice president by telephone.

Also late yesterday, a small group of House and Senate leaders met in a classified session with Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone. A larger briefing for all members of Congress is planned for today. Stay tuned.

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