President Donald Trump engaged in some saber-rattling from 30,000 feet, issuing ‘health advice’ to Iran and tweeting out images of unexploded ordinance following an attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Trump blasted out the tweet after taking off from Washington for Mar-a-Lago, where he plans to spend the holidays with family including First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron.
He referenced the attack on the embassy Sunday, and hinted at a possible military response, not long after vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides billions in U.S. military programs, infuriating Democrats and putting some Republicans in a difficult spot.
‘Our embassy in Baghdad got hit Sunday by several rockets. Three rockets failed to launch’ Trump tweeted from aboard Air Force One. ‘Guess where they were from: IRAN. Now we hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq… Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,’ he wrote.
Trump couched his language as ‘friendly health advice’
President Donald Trump tweeted out images he said were unexploded rockets he said were from Iran, and issued a warning to hold the country responsible if any Americans are killed
Trump blasted out the tweet after taking off from Washington for Mar-a-Lago, where he plans to spend the holidays with family including First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron. The President and First Lady are pictured disembarking from Air Force One in Palm Beach.
His threat comes amid uncertainty about what will happen to U.S.-Iran relations after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.
Iran blames U.S. ally Israel for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran, and Israel is warning Iran against any potential revenge attacks.
Biden favors reentering the Iran nuclear deal that Trump tried to scrap.
The threat comes in Trump’s final month in office – a period critics are warning could be an unstable period. Trump is refusing to concede, rallying Republicans to contest the results, vetoed the mammoth Defense bill, and threatened not to sign a bill to keep the government open and provide coronavirus relief. He also issued pardons to people convicted of war crimes and his political allies.
Following Trump’s tweet, U.S. Central Command tweeted out a statement officially blaming a Tehran-backed ‘rogue’ group.
‘The Dec. 20, 2020 rocket attack on the green zone in Iraq was almost certainly conducted by an Iranian-backed Rogue Militia Group. While this 21 rocket attack caused no U.S. injuries or casualties, the attack did damage buildings in the U.S. Embassy compound, and was clearly NOT intended to avoid casualties,’ according to the statement.
President Donald Trump (left) sent the tweets from the air after leaving the White House with first lady Melania Trump (right) to spend Christmas at Mar-a-Lago
President Donald Trump waved to reporters as he boarded Air Force One late Wednesday afternoon, after leaving Washington, D.C. in chaos
Qassem Soleiman was the former leader of Iran’s Quds Force
‘These groups are Iranian-backed because Iran provides both material support and direction. They are rogue because they are actually acting on behalf of Iranian interests and direction in a direct betrayal of Iraqi sovereignty.’
‘It is important for the people of Iraq to understand that past attacks by the Iranian-backed Rogue Militia Groups have killed more Iraqi civilians and members of the Iraqi Security Forces than they have killed Americans. The United States will hold Iran accountable for the deaths of any Americans that result from the work of these Iranian-backed Rogue Militia Groups,’ according to the statement.
Top U.S. national security officials agreed on Wednesday on a proposed range of options to present to Trump aimed at deterring any attack on U.S. military or diplomatic personnel in Iraq, a senior administration official told Reuters.
The meeting was spurred by an attack on Sunday in which rockets landed in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone compound targeting the U.S. Embassy and causing some minor damage, the Iraqi military and the embassy said.
The so-called principals committee group, including acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O’Brien met at the White House, said the official, who requested anonymity.
Officials are monitoring any potential actions to mark the anniversary of the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. Here a man holds a banner depicting the late Major-General, head of the elite Quds Force, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike Near Baghdad, at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon January 3, 2020
Protesters, holding placards a picture of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, gather during a demonstration against his killing, close to United States’ consulate in Istanbul, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020
Protesters and militia fighters wave Iraqi flags near tear gas thrown by U.S. Embassy security men, during a protest to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq January 1, 2020
President Donald Trump walks to board Air Force One prior to departure from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, December 23, 2020, as they travel to Mar-a-lago for Christmas and New Year’s. He tweeted about the attack while en route
A ‘range of options’ would be presented soon to Trump, said the official, who would not describe the content of the options or say whether they included military action.
‘Each one is designed to be non-escalatory and to deter further attack,’ the official said.
After the meeting, Trump, without giving evidence, said on Twitter that the rockets on Sunday were from Iran and ‘we hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq.’
‘Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,’ Trump said.
The Iraqi military blamed Sunday’s attack on an ‘outlaw group.’
Another U.S. official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that while no Americans were injured in the attack, it involved roughly 21 rockets being fired, including a number of them hitting the compound.
The official said there was increased concern and vigilance about what Iranian-backed forces might do in the lead up to the anniversary of a Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
U.S. officials blame Iran-backed militia for regular rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq, including near the embassy. No known Iran-backed groups have claimed responsibility.
The senior administration official said the aim of the White House meeting was ‘to develop the right set of options that we could present to the president to make sure that we deter the Iranians and Shia militias in Iraq from conducting attacks on our personnel.’
An array of militia groups announced in October that they had suspended rocket attacks on U.S. forces on condition that Iraq´s government present a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.
But a rocket strike on the U.S. Embassy on Nov. 18 was a clear sign that Iranian-backed militias had decided to resume attacks on U.S. bases, according to Iraqi security officials.
Washington, which is slowly reducing its 5,000 troops in Iraq, threatened to shut its embassy unless the Iraqi government reins in Iran-aligned militias. (Reporting By Steve Holland. Additional reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Grant McCool)