The latest on the US-Iran crisis

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha, Fernando Alfonso III and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 9:33 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020
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8:16 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

Mike Pence: Iranian missiles "were intended to kill Americans"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The Trump Administration does not believe Iran intentionally avoided US casualties during missile strikes, and instead intended to kill Americans, Vice President Mike Pence said today.

“The ballistic missiles fired at American bases…we believe were intended to kill Americans. We have intelligence to support that was the intention of the Iranians,” he said during an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. 

Pence said it was “not at all” risky to let Iran take the shot. He said the US response at the bases “wasn’t simply hunkering down,” saying that the US military repositioned people and assets.

He wouldn’t say whether the imminent threat had been eradicated with Soleimani’s death when asked.

“Well, the threat of Soleimani’s leadership is gone,” he said.

He called this an opportunity for a “fresh start” with the Iranian regime, reiterating that the US does not want regime change.

8:16 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

Iran's president to UK prime minister: If it weren’t for Soleimani "you wouldn’t be calm in London today"

From CNN’s Sharif Paget, Sarah Dean and Nada Bashir

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani chairs a cabinet meeting in Tehran on January 8.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani chairs a cabinet meeting in Tehran on January 8. Handout/Iranian Presidency/Anadolu AgencyGetty Images

Iran President Hassan Rouhani told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that had it not been for General Qasem Soleimani’s efforts in fighting terrorism, he “wouldn’t be calm in London today,” according to a statement released by the President of Iran.

During the phone call today, the two leaders discussed developments this past week which included Soleimani’s killing and Iran’s retaliation on US targets in Iraq. They also talked about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement (JCPOA), security in the region and Tehran-London relations.

Responding to critical statements made by some British government officials regarding the killing of Soleimani, Rouhani told Johnson they should seriously reconsider their stance on him.

"If it were not for Martyr Lieutenant General Qasem Soleimani's efforts, you wouldn't be calm in London today,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani described Iran’s ballistic missile attack of US targets in Iraq as a legitimate defense based on Article 51 of the United Nation’s Charter. “If the US makes another mistake, it will receive a very dangerous response,” he added.

Iran’s president stressed to Johnson the root cause of recent tensions in the region stems from the US’ decision to withdraw from the JCPOA. He told Johnson that if Europe returns to its commitments, his country would return to its nuclear obligations as well.

Johnson called for an “end to hostilities” and continued dialogue on the Iran nuclear deal in the phone call, according to a statement from Downing Street.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks to the cameras during a meetingin London on Wednesday.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks to the cameras during a meetingin London on Wednesday. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool/AP

Johnson expressed concern about the recent escalation in the region and the security of British troops, according to the statement.

“The Prime Minister underlined the UK’s continued commitment to the JCPOA and to ongoing dialogue to avoid nuclear proliferation and reduce tensions,” Downing Street added.

Johnson also raised the British government’s concerns over the continued detention and mistreatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals in Iran, calling for their “immediate release” by the Iranian authorities, according to Downing Street.

In 2017, during his time as foreign secretary, Johnson was forced to apologize for a gaffe that campaigners said could worsen the situation for Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Johnson told the British Parliament he was sorry for suggesting that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalists during a visit to the country in 2016, when she was arrested. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran on holiday, he said.

7:26 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

Bolton slams War Powers Resolution ahead of planned vote in Congress

From CNN's Haley Byrd, Zachary Cohen, Holmes Lybrand and Clare Foran

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks to the House Democrats caucus meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks to the House Democrats caucus meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

President Donald Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton has weighed in on the War Powers Resolution, as Democrats in Congress prepare to invoke the measure in an attempt to rein in Trump's ability to wage war on Iran.

"The 1973 War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional," Bolton tweeted.

"It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Constitution allocated foreign affairs authority between the President and Congress. The Resolution should be repealed."

What is the War Powers Resolution?

In their effort to restrain US conflict with Iran, congressional Democrats are invoking the War Powers Resolution, otherwise known as the War Powers Resolution of 1973 or the War Powers Act.

Under the Constitution, the President acts as commander-in-chief of the US Army and Navy, but Congress has the power to declare war.

The War Powers Resolution further stipulates parameters of presidential and congressional war powers, including imposing procedural requirements to ensure that presidents keep Congress apprised of military decisions as well as provisions that provide Congress with a mechanism to suspend military operations initiated by the President in certain circumstances.

What is Congress doing?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will take up a War Powers Resolution today, arguing that Trump "has made clear that he does not have a coherent strategy to keep the American people safe, achieve deescalation with Iran and ensure stability in the region."

Her announcement came after top administration officials briefed members from both parties about the situation Wednesday afternoon.

Some Democrats were still hesitant about supporting War Powers legislation after Tuesday night's strikes by Iran, but any doubt evaporated after hearing the argument presented by the officials Wednesday, a source in the room said, adding that Democrats left the room incensed.

The administration failed to convince congressional Democrats that the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force provided the legal authorization to conduct the strike that killed Soleimani, reaffirming the belief among several lawmakers that a legislative option must also be put on the floor as soon as possible, sources familiar with the meeting told CNN.

The decision to move forward with the bill follows Pelosi's initial announcement over the weekend that the House would take up a measure similar to one introduced in the Senate by Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, which calls for the removal of US armed forces from hostilities with Iran not authorized by Congress.

7:20 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

Pope Francis calls for deescalation of tensions between the US and Iran

From CNN's Delia Gallagher in Rome

Pope Francis addresses diplomats at the Vatican on Thursday.
Pope Francis addresses diplomats at the Vatican on Thursday. Remo Casilli/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis has renewed his appeal for peace in Iraq, asking that “all interested parties avoid an escalation of the conflict.”

During his annual speech to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps Thursday, Francis said: “the heightening of tensions between Iran and the United States, risk above all compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert.”

The Pope asked the countries involved to “keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restraint in full respect of international law.”

During the same speech, which is a sort of papal “State of the Union,” the Pope mentioned conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and the ‘Holy Land,’ among others.

Francis also appealed to governments around the world to “accept responsibility for finding lasting solutions” to migrants requesting asylum.

“It is painful to acknowledge that the Mediterranean Sea continues to be a vast cemetery.” the Pope said.

7:03 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

Just tuning in to the US-Iran faceoff? Here's everything you've missed

A screengrab from video reportedly shows Iranian missiles being launched early on Wednesday.
A screengrab from video reportedly shows Iranian missiles being launched early on Wednesday. AFP

Just 24 hours ago, it seemed like the United States and Iran could be on the brink of war, after Tehran responded to the US killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of the elite Quds Force, by striking bases which housed US troops in Iraq.

It was the latest in a whirlwind two weeks of military action and ratcheted up tensions. The world watched with bated breath for how Washington would respond to the attacks, which did not kill or injure any US or Iraqi troops.

On Wednesday, US President Donald 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."

Here's what happened and where we're at now:

December 27: A rocket attack believed to be linked to a Shiite militia group, backed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, killed a US civilian contractor and wounded several US and Iraq military personnel on a base near Kirkuk, Iraq.

December 29: According to the Pentagon, US forces conducted airstrikes at five facilities in Iraq and Syria controlled by a Shiite military group known as Kataib Hezbollah -- the group that American officials blamed for the attack on a base near Kirkuk.

December 31: Pro-Iranian protesters, demonstrating against the American airstrikes, attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad, scaling walls and forcing the gates open.

January 3: Trump said he ordered a precision drone strike at the Baghdad airport to "terminate" Soleimani, a top Iranian commander who was plotting "imminent and sinister attacks on Americans diplomats and military personnel." Others were killed in the attack.

January 4: Iran vowed retaliation against the US, in response to the strike. Trump warned that if Iran targeted "any Americans or American assets," he he would sanction specific military strikes against Iranian cultural sites, which could amount to a war crime.

January 5: Soleimani's body arrived in his home country, where thousands mourned him. Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader, told CNN in an exclusive interview that Tehran would retaliate directly against US "military sites."

January 6: The US Defense Department said there were no plans to withdraw from Iraq after a letter was mistakenly circulated from the military's Task Force Iraq suggesting just that. United Nations Secretary General warned that tensions were at their "highest level this century."

January 7: More than 50 people were reported killed, and at least 200 injured, in a stampede at Soleimani's funeral in his hometown of Kerman.

January 8: In the early hours of Wednesday morning local time, Iranian ballistic missiles struck two bases housing US forces in Iraq. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tehran "concluded proportionate measures in self-defense." Trump didn't respond on Tuesday night US time, except to tweet that "all is well." In a statement later on Wednesday, he said the strikes appeared to be the extent of Iran's actions and pledged more US sanctions on Tehran, signalling a scaling down of tensions, at least for the moment.

Read our full report on yesterday's developments here.

6:12 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

Meanwhile, US lawmakers are furious about the Trump administration's Iran briefing

From CNN's Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly and Jeremy Herb

Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul walk to a vote on Capitol Hill in June 2019.
Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul walk to a vote on Capitol Hill in June 2019. Alex Brandon/AP

Senate Democrats — and two key GOP senators — slammed a classified briefing Wednesday on the strike, charging that administration officials failed to provide evidence to show the attack was imminent and dismissed the role Congress should play in deciding to take military action.

The sharpest of the criticism came from two of President Donald Trump's Senate allies: Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Lee said after the briefing it was the "worst briefing I've had on a military issue" during his nine years in the Senate.

And Paul said the briefing was "an insult to the Constitution," in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, CIA Director Gina Haspel and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire gave the briefing to senators and House members.

Esper pushed back at lawmakers who slammed the briefing Wednesday, saying, "Most members of Congress do not have access to the intelligence that I think was the most compelling."

6:12 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

EU calls on Iran to avoid "irreversible acts" and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonça in Atlanta and Nada Bashir in London

European Council President Charles Michel speaks during a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France in December.
European Council President Charles Michel speaks during a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France in December. Patrick Seeger/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, European Council President Charles Michel called on Iran to “avoid posing irreversible acts” and de-escalate tensions in the region, the European Council said Thursday in a statement. 

“On the tensions in the region, President Michel repeated that the EU stands ready to enforce its engagement with all sides in order to defuse tensions … the European Council president called upon the Iranian President to avoid posing irreversible acts,” the statement said.

“Charles Michel expressed hopes that there will be no further attempts to increase tensions in the region leading to a de-escalation of the situation in the Middle East,” the statement added. 

According to the European Council, President Rouhani said that the European Union “has always played a stabilizing and responsible role in the region and that Iran stands ready to continue a close cooperation” with the EU.

5:52 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

Iranian commander warns of “harsher revenge” to come

Revolutionary Guards commander Abdollah Argahi warned that Iran would exact “harsher revenge” on the United States following the missile attacks yesterday, semi-official state news agency Tasmin reported. 

Another Revolutionary Guards official -- deputy head Ali Fadavi -- appeared to brag about Iran's strikes on US targets in Iraq yesterday, saying the US "couldn't do a damn thing" to stop it, Tasnim reported Thursday.

5:36 a.m. ET, January 9, 2020

What Iranians think of the missile attacks

From CNN's Claudia Otto and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Satellite images appear to show damage from Iranian missile strikes at al Asad Air Base in Iraq on January 8.
Satellite images appear to show damage from Iranian missile strikes at al Asad Air Base in Iraq on January 8. Planet Labs, Inc.

On a bitterly cold Wednesday in Tehran, ordinary Iranians told CNN of their fears that the missile strikes on US military targets in Iraq might lead to all-out war between America and Iran.

Teacher and interpreter Shahram Mashaoodi said he and others were “worried about the reaction” to the strikes on the al-Asad Airbase and another military site in Erbil.

“I heard the Supreme Leader mentioned it was a slap in the face [for the US]. I think it could be enough,” he told CNN, standing on a street in a middle class suburb of the Iranian capital.

“I hope war won’t break out,” he added, explaining that, “If it would be solved in a diplomatic way, I think it would be better because I think after all the people will bear the burden and suffer.”

But Mashaoodi said he doubted the Iranian attacks would be enough to force US troops out of Iraq.

“They should leave but they won’t,” he said. “They have spent millions of dollars making sites, military bases — a lot of money. I think they are going to take advantage. They never leave Iraq without achieving their goals.” 

Art teacher Solmaz Ghaznavi, who lived through the Iran-Iraq war as a child, said she was worried about the impact of any Iran-US conflict on the nation’s children. 

“Generally speaking, I’m against any war no matter who starts,” she told CNN.

Saba Vosough, an oil engineering student, said he too was against war, but he seemed doubtful whether conflict could be avoided altogether.

“I, personally, am against war because the people suffer first,” he said. “Either it’s all-out war, or minor war. If we hit two, they will hit back four. It won’t remain without response.”

Accountancy student Rojan Parvnia said despite their differences, citizens of the US and Iran have one thing in common: “Even American people say, ‘No war.’ They don’t want war, the same way that Iranians do not want war either."