Iran attacks bases housing US troops
President Trump moments ago repeated an oft-repeated assertion that Iran was "given $150 billion" by the 2015 nuclear agreement signed by the Obama administration.
Facts first: That figure is an exaggeration. And the money in question wasn't American.
The US had agreed to unfreeze a significant sum of Iran's assets that had been frozen in international financial institutions, predominantly outside the US, because of sanctions against Iran.
Trump did not pull the $150 billion figure out of thin air: Obama himself mused in a 2015 interview about Iran having "$150 billion parked outside the country." But experts on Iran policy, and Obama's administration, said that the quantity of assets the agreement actually made available to Iran was much lower.
In 2015, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put the number at $56 billion. PolitiFact reported that Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, put it at about $60 billion. Adam Szubin, a senior Treasury Department official, testified to Congress in 2015 that the "usable liquid assets" would total "a little more than $50 billion." The rest of Iran's foreign assets, he said, were either tied up in "illiquid" projects "that cannot be monetized quickly, if at all, or are composed of outstanding loans to Iranian entities that cannot repay them."
Trump was more accurate on Wednesday when he claimed Iran had been given $1.8 billion "in cash." The Obama administration did send Iran $1.7 billion — $400 million plus interest — to settle a decades-old dispute over a purchase of never-delivered US military goods Iran made before its government was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
President Trump just finished addressing the nation on the Iran crisis. The President spoke for about 10 minutes and didn't take questions from reporters afterward.
Here are the key things we learned in his address:
- He confirmed no Americans were killed: Trump said, "No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime." US and Iraqi sources had previously said there were no known casualties.
- He said Iran is standing down: "Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," Trump said.
- He announced new sanctions: "The United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime," Trump said.
- He urged allies to pressure Iran on nuclear weapons: Trump called on other nations to recognize that Iran must end its nuclear ambitions. "Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support of terrorism," Trump said. "We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place."
- He criticized the slain Iran general: Trump said Qasem Soleimani, whose death in a US strike last week sparked the current US-Iran tensions, is "the world's top terrorist." He said Soleimani "was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him."
President Trump announced his administration will hit Iran with new sanctions in the wake of its attack on two Iraqi military bases housing US troops, as well as in response to its broader aggression in the region.
"The United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime," Trump said.
He noted that his administration is continuing to review other options to respond to the Iranian missile strikes.
"These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior,” Trump said. “In recent months alone, Iran has seized ships in international waters, fired an unprovoked strike on Saudi Arabia and shot down two American drones."
President Trump ended his remarks on the Iran crisis, which lasted about 10 minutes, with a message to the people of Iran.
"Finally, to the people and leaders of Iran, we want you to have a future and a great future, one that you deserve," Trump said. "One of prosperity at home and harmony with the nations of the world.
"The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it," Trump added.
He did not take questions as he left the room.
Trump said that since he took office "America has achieved energy independence."
"We are now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent and we do not need Middle East oil."
President Trump criticized the Iran nuclear deal as "very defective."
Iran announced Wednesday it was partially withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
"The very defective JCPOA expires shortly, anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout. Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism," Trump said.
Trump called on other allies to "break away" from the deal
"We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place," he said.
Trump described the Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani killed in a US strike last week as "the world's top terrorist."
"He trained terrorist armies, including Hezbollah, launching terrorist strikes against civilian targets. He fueled bloody civil wars all across the region. He viciously wounded and murdered thousands of US troops, including the planting of roadside bombs that maim and dismember their victims."
Trump said Soleimani directed the recent attacks on US personnel in Iraq that "badly wounded four service members and killed one American" and he orchestrated "the violent assault" on the US Embassy on Baghdad.
"In recent days he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him," Trump said.
President Trump said US forces are "prepared for anything," but for now, "Iran appears to be standing down."
"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," Trump said.
Watch Trump's opening remarks:
Trump said, "No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime."
"We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases."