In response to the US-directed drone strike that killed Iranian military general Qassem Suleimani, Iran has fired missiles at US military bases in Iran Tuesday night, setting off a whirlwind of media coverage and corresponding wave of attention on social media. Talks of escalation, #WWIII, and Trump criticism immediately revived online.
Iran’s foreign minister called these attacks “proportionate measures” and countered that Iran does not seek an escalation into full-blown war. It appears Iran is continuing to straddle the line between escalation and negotiation even after launching the missiles.
As of Tuesday night, there had been no sign of American casualties due to the missile strike, despite conflicting reports from Iran. In addition, President Trump confirmed no casualties the same night:
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called these missile attacks “a slap in the face,” adding that such strikes “are not enough.” In other words, these missiles may only be the beginning of a string of retaliatory attacks against the US. Some experts expect Iran to continue its attacks against the US through proxies as opposed to more overt, direct ones like the case Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning, President Trump formally addressed the nation in a brief statement, in which he announced additional sanctions on Iran despite the already strict ones in place and criticized the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, albeit making misleading claims.
“As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.”
The address comes after criticism for a series of contradictory statements by the White House administration surrounding President Trump’s military threats to Iranian cultural sites. These potential attacks have been criticized as war crimes, as the US signed a 1954 international agreement that protects cultural property worldwide.
Secretary of Defense Mike Pompeo attempted to clarify the President’s intentions, claiming that Trump “didn’t say he’d go after a cultural site” on Fox News. Hour later, however, President Trump indicated the opposite:
“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”
This trail of inconsistencies coming out of the White House suggest the Trump administration may not have an overall strategy in the face of potential war with Iran. Trump’s relatively short and discreet address Wednesday morning, moreover, indicates the administration is not ready to loop the public into its military intentions.