US-Iran Tensions: Trump to hit Iran with ‘punishing economic sanctions’ to avoid escalation but ‘stands ready to strike’

US-Iran Tensions: Trump to hit Iran with ‘punishing economic sanctions’ to avoid escalation but ‘stands ready to strike’

Washington/Tehran – The events in the Middle East began to pick up speed, and a series of developments unfolded after the US killed Iran’s top military commander Major General Qassem Soleimani last Friday. Solemani was the chief of Quds Force, an elite and crucial unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and believed to be the second-most-powerful person in Iran. The attack on the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on New Year’s Eve is said to have triggered the US move leading it to the Soleimani killing. The assassination invited a severe response from Tehran with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei threatening the United States with ‘harsh revenge.’ The country even declared the US troops ‘terrorists’ for executing the Soleimani killing. On the other hand, the US warned it had ‘locked and loaded’ its weapons to target 52 Iranian locations that included even its cultural sites.   

Only hours after Soleimani’s last rites, Iran targeted US interests in Iraq. Iran launched 22 ballistic missiles on US’ Irbil and Al-Assad bases. Iran had claimed the attack caused significant destruction and killed 80 people. However, the US asserted it suffered no casualties in the incident and sustained minimal damages. Moreover, analysts across the globe feared a fierce battle in the Middle East was imminent while Russian lawmakers warned it would spark a nuclear war. Both President Trump and media outlets across the globe have likened the event to the 2012 attack on US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. In both cases, the attacks targeted US diplomatic outposts in the Middle East.   

Iran’s attacks caused a sensation across the globe with President Trump expected to make an announcement on launching retaliatory strikes. Nevertheless, the world was caught by surprise with the US response. The United States President, Donald Trump made the announcement on Wednesday. In his address to the United States, President Trump said, ‘Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilised world. That will never happen.’   

The world anticipated Iran’s assault to snowball into a full-fledged war in the Middle East with some even calling it the flashpoint for the Third World War. Nevertheless, President Trump appears to have shown restraint and deescalated the situation by avoiding a military confrontation. Trump went on to say, ‘As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime’. Furthermore, he stated that ‘No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties. All our soldiers are safe, only minimal damages were sustained at our military base’.  

The US President underscored that “For far too long nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilising behaviour in the Middle East and beyond. Those days are over.” Trump said, ‘Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.’   

Additionally, he called on the signatories of the Iran Nuclear Deal to pull away from the deal ‘to make the world a safer and more peaceful place’. At the same time, he stated that ‘We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential. Iran can be a great country. Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred and war. The civilised world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer. It will not be allowed to go forward.’  

President Trump even appealed to NATO to show involvement in the Middle East process. Apart from that, he justified the Soleimani killing and said, ‘We have killed the savage leader of ISIS, Al-Baghdadi. He was a monster. He was trying to rebuild the ISIS caliphate and failed. Thousands of ISIS terrorists have been killed by the administration. Iran chanted death to America despite our assistance. Then it went on a terror spree funded by the nuclear deal and created hell in the region.’ He added that Soleimani had caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and ‘should have been taken out many years ago.’ 

For now, the US has imposed sanctions on Iran, but has also warned it was ‘ready to strike’ if the need arose. Despite Trump’s remarks, the US response is seen as a significant de-escalation in the present situation. The United States has not threatened military action and appears to have exercised restraint by avoiding a military confrontation. If Iran responds to it positively, a major battle could be averted. Also, oil and gold prices that surged after US drone attack could come down, significantly reducing the added pressure on the world economy.  

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