Fears (and in some quarters, hopes) that self-styled "counterpuncher" President Trump would effectively declare war on Iran after Tehran fired ballistic missiles at Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops Tuesday evening slowly abated as the tense night wore on. The White House announced Trump wouldn't make any official statement Tuesday, the U.S. military said there appeared to be no U.S. casualties, a grammatically correct tweet from Trump's account proclaimed "all is well!" with the Iran situation, and news emerged from Iran that it considered the missile strikes just revenge for the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) January 8, 2020
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made that statement somewhat official:
Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.
We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2020
Some Iran observers, like Iranian-American journalist Yashar Ali, were deeply skeptical that Tehran was done avenging Soleimani's death, but other Trump watchers suggested that if it turns out no Americans were killed by Iran's precision missiles, Trump might actually take the proffered "off-ramp" from war with Iran.
Some around POTUS think he is looking for an off-ramp. https://t.co/VgFbbQ8JG3
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 8, 2020
As night wears on -- and if this good news holds -- there is a strong need for U.S. restraint. A missile strike from Iran is serious, but the small size of the attack looks more like saving face than an attempt at serious escalation. Press pause. https://t.co/C0cDYFo9Pu
— David French (@DavidAFrench) January 8, 2020
Agree, and I'll go further -- I think what Trump wants is to tweak/rebrand the Iran nuclear deal, a la USMCA. (Whether he can get this is another question.) https://t.co/0FdSJLYYiE
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 8, 2020
The common thread from Trump supporters and detractors alike, though, is that you never know which way this president will fall until he's hit the ground.
Ironically, I suspect Trump himself likely wants to take the out the Iranians are offering; and if this descends into all-out war, it will be because establishment Republicans and rightwingers goaded Trump into it. https://t.co/XJUrBAwtvq
— Jeff Spross (@jeffspross) January 8, 2020