Donald Trump blamed Barack Obama on Wednesday for supplying Iran with the money to purchase a torrent of missiles fired at American military positions Tuesday night.
‘The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,’ he said, citing $150 billion in frozen assets that the previous president released and $1.5 billion flown by the U.S. to Tehran.
He began his speech to the world on Wednesday with a familiar ultimatum, even before saying ‘Good morning.’ ‘As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be be allowed have a nuclear weapon,’ he said.
And Trump backed up that vow with a threat: ‘Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast,’ he said, sending a warning in nearly the same breath as an olive branch.
‘Under construction are many hypersonic missiles,’ he warned, standing amid a tableau of stern-faced military leaders.
Trump blasted Tehran’s ‘destructive and destabilizing behavior’ and said the days of Western patience ‘are over.’
And he urged European nations to make ‘a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place’ and allows Iran to explore its ‘untapped potential’ as a mainstream trading partner.
‘We want you to have a future, and a great future,’ he told Iran’s people.
His remarks, watched live around the world, came after Tehran’s armies rained missiles down on Iraqi military installations where American troops have been stationed for more than 16 years.
‘No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime,’ the president said. ‘We suffered no casualties.’
Iranian state-run television claimed at least 20 U.S. servicemen and women were killed.
U.S. officials believe the missiles were deliberately fired into unpopulated areas, in what a senior official called a ‘heads-up bombing.’
The president spoke with the aid of teleprompters in the Grand Foyer, the main entrance hall in the front of the White House.
Trump has long seen himself as a maverick loner on the world stage, unpredictable and unbothered by ruffling feathers overseas.
He boasts that his low approval ratings in foreign countries are an indication that he is focused on Americans’ welfare—not the priorities of real and nominal allies.
That approach could be tested as Iran and the U.S. creep toward what some, but not all, in the national security establishment see as an inevitable war.
The White House isn’t expecting one, the senior official said Wednesday: ‘This doesn’t have to end badly, and frankly right now we might be in the best position ever for diplomacy with Tehran.’
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired on the Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and Erbil International airport in the north in the early hours of Wednesday, but failed to kill a single US or Iraqi solider.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking on Iranian TV shortly after the missiles were launched, described the strikes as ‘a slap’ and said they ‘are not sufficient (for revenge)’ while vowing further action to kick US troops out of the region.
But foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the attack was now ‘concluded,’ praising Iran’s ‘proportionate’ response and adding: ‘We do not seek escalation or war.’
Trump tweeted late Tuesday to say ‘so far so good’ as American forces assessed the damage and casualties.
Iranian television had tried to claim that 80 ‘American terrorists’ were killed, but that figure was quickly rubbished by Iraqi and US officials.