President Trump said “Iran appears to be standing down” in a nationally televised address Wednesday. What are his next moves?
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
In an address to the nation today, President Trump said no Americans were hurt when Iran launched attacks on military bases in Iraq. The strikes were retaliation for last week’s targeted killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. And after 10 days of escalating tensions, Trump today struck a more peaceful tone.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Finally, to the people and leaders of Iran, we want you to have a future and a great future, one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, in harmony with the nations of the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.
CORNISH: White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez joins us now in the studio to talk about Trump’s message.
Welcome back, Franco.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Thank you, Audie.
CORNISH: All right. So we hear the president saying that the U.S. is ready to embrace peace. What else did he have to say?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, he declared victory in this round. He took out someone, General Soleimani, who most all agreed was a bad person. But he was also very important to Iran. And in response, the United States did not suffer significantly from last night’s missile strikes. You didn’t hear any more threats or warnings of more U.S. strikes. And at one point, Trump specifically said the United States doesn’t need Middle East oil anymore. And that is a signal that Trump doesn’t feel the Middle East is worth all this trouble. That’s what Michael Singh told me. He was the Middle East director in the George W. Bush White House.
MICHAEL SINGH: You hear two themes. One is that, look, this region just isn’t that important to us anymore. I think a lot of people would dispute that, but many people wouldn’t. And then also the second theme that others need to step up, whether it’s the Europeans, whether it’s NATO, whether it’s, frankly, the countries of the region themselves like the Saudis and Emiratis.
ORDOÑEZ: And that’s something that has – that Trump has brought up before and during his campaign and since then about getting out of the Middle East.
CORNISH: There’s been a lot of conversation on Capitol Hill because finally there were some briefings on some of the, I guess, evidence, so to speak, that led to this decision. Did the president shed any light on the so-called imminent threat that prompted him to order the strike on Soleimani?
ORDOÑEZ: No, he just described Soleimani as a ruthless terrorist and outlined some of his past bad deeds, and said in recent days that Soleimani was planning new attacks on American targets. Trump did not give any details on the type of threat that warranted such a risky action. Now, I will say the administration was on the Hill today briefing members of Congress. After that meeting, many Democrats said it was unconvincing, and so did Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah.
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MIKE LEE: I find this insulting and demeaning, not personally, but to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold. I find it insulting. And I find it demeaning to the Constitution of the United States, to which we’ve all sworn an oath.
ORDOÑEZ: But most Republicans who came out of that meeting said the president made the right call. I think this just underscores how political this issue has become.
CORNISH: What else did the president have to say about what his strategy is going forward?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, he said they are still evaluating U.S. options. One thing he did do was order new economic sanctions. But U.S. sanctions against Iran are already pretty tough. It’s unclear how much more painful they can get. President Trump is also pressing allies like the U.K., Germany and France to join the United States and give up on the Iran nuclear deal. He wants them to work on something that he argues would be stronger. Again, no details on that. He also wants allies, members of NATO, to become more involved in the Middle East. But it’s unclear what kind of appetite there is.
CORNISH: Franco Ordoñez, thanks so much.
ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.
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