US Health Agency Reports Five Confirmed Cases Of Coronavirus

People wearing masks stand on a street in a shopping district in Hong Kong on January 26, 2020, as a preventative measure following a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. DALE DE LA REY / AFP

 

US health authorities said Sunday there are now five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and more are expected.

Nancy Messonnier, head of the respiratory disease section at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said around 100 people in 26 states are being investigated for the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Of the confirmed cases, all five people had traveled to Wuhan, Messonier said during a conference call with reporters.

“Every case we have had in the United States is someone who has had direct contact in Wuhan,” she said.

Messonier said there are two cases in California and one each in Arizona, Illinois and Washington state. Until now the toll was three.

While Chinese officials have launched an extraordinary emergency response, Messonier insisted that the health risk for Americans, in general, remains low “at this time.”

Trump ‘Should Be Removed’ – Adam Schiff

File Photo: US President Donald Trump 

 

Lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff called dramatically for the Senate to remove President Donald Trump from office Thursday, saying the US leader cannot be trusted to put the country’s interests ahead of his own.

“The American people deserve a president they can count on, to put their interest first,” said Schiff.

His impassioned words capped a long day in which Democrats detailed Trump’s illicit scheme to pressure Ukraine to help his 2020 reelection campaign.

“You know, you can’t trust this president to do what is right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump,” Schiff added.

“He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed.”

“Because right matters. And truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.”

‘It is illegal’

As the 100 senators sat as jurors and millions of Americans watched on television, House impeachment managers mustered scores of videos, internal documents and extensive witness testimony to lay out a strong case that the US leader abused his powers.

Schiff’s prosecution team detailed how Trump flagrantly undertook last year to force Kiev to help him tarnish his possible 2020 reelection rival, former vice president Joe Biden.

“President Trump used the powers of his office to solicit a foreign nation to interfere in our elections for his own personal benefit,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler told the chamber.

“Since President George Washington took office in 1789, no president has abused his power in this way,” Nadler said.

“The president has repeatedly, flagrantly, violated his oath… The president’s conduct is wrong. It is illegal. And it is dangerous.”

‘Unfair and corrupt’

Over nine hours the Democrats methodically dismantled Republican claims that Trump did nothing wrong.

They left few doubts that Trump’s sole motivation in secretly freezing aid to Ukraine last July was to force Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce one investigation into Biden and a second into an unsupported story that Kiev helped Democrats in the 2016 election.

To puncture a key White House argument that the US constitution requires a specific crime to remove a president, they played old videos in which two of Trump’s closest defenders, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and storied criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, said that abuse of power itself is a clear impeachable offense.

And they detailed the extensive role of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in the scheme to pressure Zelensky, even while US intelligence and diplomatic chiefs disagreed with it.

“Donald Trump chose Rudy Giuliani over his own intelligence agencies. He chose Rudy Giuliani over his own national security advisors… That makes him dangerous to our country,” said Schiff, who leads the House Intelligence Committee.

Uphill battle

Yet, three days into arguments into the historic trial, there were few signs that any of the Republican majority that Trump commands in the Senate would buy into the evidence and turn against him.

“What we heard from the managers yesterday, the day before, it is the same thing, day after day after day,” said Republican Senator John Barrasso.

“We’re hearing the same things over and over,” said Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. “We will be putting on vigorous defense of both facts and rebutting what they’ve said.”

At the White House, Trump unleashed a barrage of tweets attacking the process as “loaded with lies and misrepresentations.”

“Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!” he tweeted

Witness issue

Democratic prosecutors will complete their arguments Friday with a focus on the second impeachment charge, obstruction of Congress, before Trump’s legal team holds the floor in his defense for three days.

Democrats are hoping their arguments will at least persuade some Republicans, who hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, to support their call to issue subpoenas next week for four top current and former Trump aides to testify, and for internal White House records about the Ukraine affair.

But all indications were that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in coordination with the White House, will seek to stifle witness requests and bring the trial to a close with a vote to acquit Trump by the end of next week.

Both Trump and McConnell said early this week that the White House could claim executive privilege to refuse the subpoenas, forcing a court challenge that could prolong the case well into February.

Two Dead, 15 Injured In Shooting Outside US Bar

 

 

A shooting outside a bar in the US city of Kansas has left two people dead and at least 15 injured, three of whom were in critical condition, police said on Monday.

The shooting occurred at about 11:30 pm Sunday (0530 GMT) as people lined up outside the bar, the Kansas City police said on its Twitter account.

Arriving in the chaotic aftermath, police found the bodies of a woman who was shot and killed in the car park and a man who was believed to be the shooter.

“An armed security guard at the business engaged the shooter outside of the establishment,” a police statement said.

“We believe the shooter is the deceased adult male.

“As the investigation unfolded at least 15 other victims arrived at area hospitals. At this time three of those victims are listed in critical condition.”

Police said the circumstances that led to the shooting were not known.

Iran Plane Crash: Ukraine Receives Bodies Of Victims 

Candles flicker in front of the names of the victims of the Ukrainian plane shot down in Iran before a meeting of the International Coordination and Response Group, at the High Commission of Canada in London, on January 16, 2020.
Tolga Akmen / AFP

 

The flag-draped coffins of the 11 Ukrainians who died in a plane mistakenly shot down by Iran during a spike in tensions with Washington arrived in Kiev on Sunday.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Oleksiy Goncharuk and other officials attended the solemn ceremony at Kiev’s Boryspil airport to see caskets with the remains of the downed plane’s nine Ukrainian flight crew and two passengers being removed from the aircraft.

Ukraine International Airlines staff, some in tears, stood on the tarmac clutching flowers, according to live video footage.

The airline staff and relatives formed two lines to make a corridor through which the honour guard carried the caskets draped in the yellow-and-blue flag of Ukraine.

Some men fell to one knee to honor the victims.

READ ALSO: Heavy Snow Delays Search For Missing Trekkers In Nepal

The honour guard also held flags of the countries whose citizens perished in the crash.

The Kiev-bound UIA Boeing 737, crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board, mostly Iranian and Canadian citizens.

The caskets were to remain for a while at the airport terminal so that relatives and members of the airline could say their last goodbyes.

The funerals are expected to be held on Monday.

The Boeing crashed shortly after Iran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq in response to the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3.

Tehran admitted it had mistakenly shot down the plane several days later.

Ukraine’s leader has demanded that Iran punish those guilty for the downing of the airliner and compensate the victims.

AFP

US Calls On Iran To Apologize For Arresting UK Ambassador

 

 

The United States called Saturday on Iran to apologize for detaining the British ambassador to Tehran, reportedly during protests against the regime.

“This violates the Vienna Convention, which the regime has a notorious history of violating. We call on the regime to formally apologize to the UK for violating his rights and to respect the rights of all diplomats,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeted.

Trump Warns Iran Against ‘Massacre’ As Protests Erupt Over Jetliner Downing

A file photo of US President, Donald Trump. AFP Photo.

 

 

US President Donald Trump said Saturday the United States was monitoring Iranian demonstrations closely, warning against any new “massacre” as protests broke out after Tehran admitted to shooting down a passenger plane.

Iran said earlier it unintentionally downed a Ukrainian jetliner outside Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, in an abrupt about-turn after initially denying Western claims it was struck by a missile. The firing came shortly after Iran launched missiles at bases in Iraq housing American forces.

President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”

At a student protest to pay tribute to the crash victims on Saturday, Iranian authorities briefly detained Britain’s ambassador, in what the British government called a violation of international law. He was later released.

Trump told Iranians — in tweets in both English and Farsi — that he stands by them and is monitoring the demonstrations.

“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you,” he tweeted.

“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he added, apparently referring to an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November.

“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” he said.

The new demonstrations follow an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November. Amnesty International has said it left more than 300 people dead.

Internet access was reportedly cut off in multiple Iranian provinces ahead of memorials planned a month after the protests.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has demanded that Iran provide “full clarity” on the downing of the plane. Ottawa says the dead included 57 Canadians.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also offered his condolences and ordered the armed forces to address “shortcomings” so that such a disaster does not happen again.

Tehran’s acknowledgment came after officials in Iran denied for days Western claims that the Ukraine International Airlines plane had been struck by a missile in a catastrophic error.

The Kiev-bound jet slammed into a field shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on Wednesday.

The crash came hours after Tehran launched missiles at bases hosting American forces in Iraq in response to the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.

Fears grew of an all-out war between Iran and its arch-enemy the United States, but those concerns have subsided after Trump said Tehran appeared to be standing down after targeting the US bases.

Protesters ‘dispersed’

On Saturday evening, police dispersed students who had converged on Amir Kabir University in Tehran to pay tribute to the victims, after some among the hundreds gathered shouted “destructive” slogans, Fars news agency said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said UK envoy Rob Macaire had been detained.

“The arrest of our ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” Raab said in a statement. The US called on Iran to apologize.

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, which is close to the country’s conservatives, said the envoy had been “provoking radical acts” among students. He was released a few hours later and would be summoned again by Iranian officials on Sunday, it said.

State television reported that students shouted “anti-regime” chants, while Fars reported that posters of Soleimani had been torn down.

The aerospace commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards accepted full responsibility for Wednesday’s accident.

But Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said the missile operator acted independently, targeting the 737 after mistaking it for a “cruise missile”.

The operator failed to obtain approval from his superiors because of disruptions to a communications system, he said.

“He had 10 seconds to decide. He could have decided to strike or not to strike and under such circumstances, he took the wrong decision.”

Justice, compensation

Iran had been under mounting international pressure to allow a “credible” investigation after video emerged appearing to show the moment the airliner was hit.

In footage that the New York Times said it had verified, a fast-moving object is seen rising into the sky before a bright flash appears. Several seconds later, an explosion is heard.

Iran’s military said it had been at the highest level of alert after American “threats” and that the plane had turned and come close to a “sensitive” military site before it was targeted due to “human error.”

Rouhani said Iran had been on alert for possible US attacks after Soleimani’s “martyrdom.”

Rouhani added he had ordered “all relevant bodies to take all necessary actions (to ensure) compensation” to the families of those killed.

The majority of passengers on Flight PS752 were Iranians and Canadians, including dual nationals, while Ukrainians, Afghans, Britons, and Swedes were also aboard.

Rouhani told his Ukrainian counterpart Saturday that “all the persons involved in this air disaster will be brought to justice,” Ukraine’s presidency said.

This is Iran’s worst civil aviation disaster since 1988 when the US military said it shot down an Iran Airplane over the Gulf by mistake, killing all 290 people on board.

At Least 11 Dead As Storms Sweep Through US South

 

 

Severe storms sweeping the southern US killed at least 11 people, authorities said, as tornadoes and high winds upturned cars, destroyed homes and left tens of thousands without power.

The storms hit parts of the south on Friday and were expected to move east and north on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, which issued flood and tornado warnings for several states.

Among the dead were a policeman and firefighter who were hit by a vehicle in Texas after being called out to respond to traffic accidents in icy conditions, local authorities said.

In Louisiana the bodies of a couple were found on Saturday near their destroyed mobile home after it was hit by storms the night before, said Bill Davis of the county sheriff’s office.

“It’s totally rolled over. It looked like a couple hundred feet into the back yard. Debris is all over. It’s just a sad situation,” said Davis, according to local television channel KTBS 3.

The National Weather Service said three people were confirmed dead on Saturday in Alabama, where local channel WHNT News 19 showed buildings reduced to rubble.

Other structures had parts of their roofs ripped off and downed power lines were strewn across roads.

The storms left more than 200,000 people without electricity early Sunday, the poweroutage.us website said, with North Carolina and Alabama among the worst affected areas.

Trump Announces Sweeping Changes To Key Environmental Law

 

 

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced Thursday sweeping changes to an environmental law that critics said guts oversight requirements in the construction of highways, airports and pipelines and allows the government to ignore their impact on climate change.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970, all major infrastructure projects must be subject to environmental impact assessment by federal agencies.

NEPA was the US’s first major environmental law and designed “to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.” It has proved an obstacle to Trump’s efforts to accelerate fossil fuel extraction.

The Environment Protection Agency raised an objection to the Keystone XL pipeline, planned to bring oil from Canada to the US, during a NEPA review under the Obama administration, with the former president canceling the project as a result — only for it to be revived under Trump.

The executive branch doesn’t have the power to change the act of Congress, but, as it has previously done for the Endangered Species Act, it can change rules about how it is applied — and it was these proposed changes that were announced Thursday.

Trump told reporters that he was acting because projects were being “tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process,” adding he would not stop until “gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again.”

Raises threshold for assessment

The proposals, which are subject to a 60-day review period for public comments before taking effect at a later date, would raise the threshold for what types of projects require an environmental impact assessment.

It would exclude projects financed in whole or in large part by the private sector, as is the case for a number of oil pipelines.

And federal agencies will be asked to complete their analyses in two years, compared to the four and a half years they are currently given, said Mary Neumayr, who heads the Council on Environmental Quality.

“Over time, implementation of NEPA has become increasingly complex and time-consuming for federal agencies, state, local, and tribal agencies, project applicants, and average Americans seeking permits or approvals from the federal government,” she said.

She added that the assessments for highway projects are taking more than seven years, and some studies stretch to longer than a decade.

Legal challenges expected

The administration also wants to remove requirements to examine the “cumulative” impacts of projects, something that would exclude the impact of climate change — even though the proposal does not exclude consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in NEPA analyses, said Neumayr.

The definition of environmental impacts would be reduced to those that are “reasonably foreseeable” and have a “reasonably close causal relationship,” while any changes must be “technically and economically feasible.”

Environmental groups slammed the move and vowed to respond with legal challenges.

“Today’s action is nothing more than an attempt to write Donald Trump’s climate denial into official government policy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“Communities across the country are already feeling the effects of climate change, but rather than protect them, Trump is pulling out all the stops to silence their voices and further prop up his corporate polluter friends.”

US House Votes To Limit Trump War Powers Against Iran

 

 

In a rebuke to President Donald Trump, the US House voted Thursday to restrict his future military action against Iran, as lawmakers sought to claw back congressional war powers from the White House.

The non-binding resolution was introduced by Democrats after Trump’s order to kill an Iranian commander and retaliatory missile strikes by the Islamic republic dramatically escalated tensions and raised fears of a war between the two foes.

The vote, 224 to 194, was largely along party lines, although three members of Trump’s Republican Party joined Democrats in approving the measure that demands the president not engage in military action against Iran unless authorized by Congress.

US Threatens Sanctions On Venezuelan Lawmakers Over Bribes

President Donald Trump and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guadio

 

The United States will consider sanctions against Venezuelan lawmakers accused of taking bribes to vote against opposition leader Juan Guaido, an official said Wednesday.

Guaido, recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by the United States and more than 50 other nations, was sworn in Tuesday for another term after a chaotic standoff in which troops physically stopped him from entering Congress.

The United States has already imposed wide sanctions aimed at toppling leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s regime and cutting off his government’s key funding source of oil.

Guaido and the United States say Maduro’s government offered bribes to members of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s sole institution controlled by the opposition, in hopes of defeating Guaido.

“There are people who have been engaged in corrupt activity that may have gotten themselves on the radar screen for the first time in the last few days,” a senior US official told reporters in Washington.

He said he was speaking of “people taking money from people that are already under sanctions in the United States.”

“We don’t put sanctions on people for the way they vote,” he said, adding that if individuals “aid or abet or profit from the anti-democratic behavior of the regime, you could be subjected to sanctions.”

Despite a crumbling economy that has sent millions fleeing Venezuela, Maduro remains in power with support from the country’s military as well as Russia, China, and Cuba.

The US is also “looking at additional sanctions” in response to growing Russian support for Maduro, Elliot Abrams, the State Department’s Venezuela envoy, said on Monday.

Trump Pulls Back From War With Iran

 

 

President Donald Trump pulled back from the brink of war with Iran on Wednesday, saying that Tehran appeared to be “standing down” after firing missiles — without causing casualties — at US troops based in Iraq.

In a televised address to the nation from the White House, Trump emphasized there were “no Americans harmed” in the ballistic missile salvo aimed at two bases.

While he promised to immediately impose “punishing” new economic sanctions on Tehran, Trump welcomed signs the Islamic republic “appears to be standing down” in the tit-for-tat confrontation.

The comments cooled what threatened to become an uncontrolled boiling over of tensions after Trump ordered the killing last Friday of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.

In New York, the Nasdaq stock market index surged to a record high of 9,129.24.

However, the US president, facing both an impeachment trial in Congress and tough reelection in November, defended his targeting of a man seen by many as Iran’s second most influential official.

Soleimani, a national hero at home, was “the world’s top terrorist” and “should have been terminated long ago,” Trump said.

And although Trump ended his remarks with a call for peace, he opened by stating that he would never allow Iran to procure a nuclear weapon.

It was Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from a multinational agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the reimposition of crippling economic sanctions against Tehran, which began an intensification of tensions between the two countries.

Missiles blast bases

Iran’s missiles targeted the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, both housing American and other foreign troops from a US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who earlier promised “revenge” for Soleimani, called the missiles a “slap in the face” against the United States.

He indicated there was more to come.

“The question of revenge is another issue,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.

Iraq’s military said it also sustained no casualties. But the strike highlighted the difficult position of Iraq, caught in an ever-deepening conflict between Trump and Iran.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, dismissed suggestions that Iran did not mean to kill Americans with the missile barrage.

“I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That’s my own personal assessment,” Milley told reporters.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh rejected Iraq being a “battlefield for warring sides.”

At the United Nations, Iran’s ambassador said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that despite the missile firing, Iran respects Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Iran has powerful militia allies in Iraq and they said they intended to take revenge for Friday’s US drone attack, in which top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis died alongside Soleimani.

Muhandis was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, a military network incorporated into the Iraqi state whose factions are backed by Tehran.

Late Wednesday two rockets, fired by unidentified forces, landed in the supposedly high-security Green Zone, where US and other embassies are located, security sources said.

AFP correspondents heard two loud detonations.

Unusual brazenness

The brazenness of Iran’s ballistic missile strike was unusual.

But as the dust settled, it appeared that Iran’s attack — coming soon after the burial of Soleimani at a funeral in front of vast crowds — might have been more symbolic than anything.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif indicated Iran was satisfied for now.

“Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” Zarif said on Twitter.

Reflecting deep concerns among Trump’s domestic opponents, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives scheduled a vote for Thursday on limiting the Republican president’s ability to wage war against Iran without congressional approval.

“The president has made clear that he does not have a coherent strategy to keep the American people safe, achieve de-escalation with Iran and ensure stability in the region,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

But US Defense Secretary Mark Esper insisted the United States has restored some deterrence against Iran in the wake of the Soleimani killing.

“But we will see. Time will tell,” Esper said.

US headaches in Iraq

The apparent de-escalation in Iran did not remove pressure from approximately 5,200 US troops stationed across Iraq, where they face pro-Iranian Shiite militias and political opposition.

Paramilitary chief Qais al-Khazali — blacklisted as a “terrorist” by the US — said his side’s response to the United States “will be no less than the size of the Iranian response.”

But US Vice President Mike Pence told the CBS Evening News that “we’re receiving some encouraging intelligence that Iran is sending messages to those very same militias not to move against American targets or civilians.”

Angered at the US drone strike, the Iraqi parliament has called for the expulsion of American troops, sparking embarrassing confusion at the Pentagon over how to respond.

– Airliner crash kills 176 –
Separately, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed just outside Tehran after taking off bound for Kiev, killing all 176 people on board shortly after Iran launched its missiles towards Iraq.

There was no immediate suggestion of any link with the strikes but carriers including Air France, Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa announced they were suspending flying through Iranian and Iraqi airspace as a precaution.

The US aviation regulator banned civil flights over Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf, citing the potential for “misidentification” of aircraft.

Iran Fired ‘More Than A Dozen’ Missiles At US Forces In Iraq, Says Pentagon

The Pentagon is seen as snow falls on January 7, 2020 in Washington, DC Olivier Douliery / AFP

 

Iran fired “more than a dozen” ballistic missiles Tuesday against two airbases in Iraq where US and coalition forces are based, the Pentagon said.

“At approximately 5.30 pm (2230 GMT) on January 7, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties at the bases.

The attacks came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to “respond” to a US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

The White House said in a separate statement that President Donald Trump was “monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.”

Local security sources told AFP earlier that at least nine rockets had slammed into the Ain al-Asad airbase, the largest of the Iraqi military compounds where foreign troops are based.

Iran claimed responsibility, with state TV saying the Islamic republic had launched missiles on the base.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network, was killed in the US drone strike alongside Soleiman, seen as the “godfather” of Tehran’s proxy network across the region.

Hoffman said the Pentagon was working on initial battle damage assessments following Tuesday’s airbase attacks.

“In recent days and in response to Iranian threats and actions, the Department of Defense has taken all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners,” he added.

“These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region.”

Hoffman added that the US would take “all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said the US “must ensure the safety of our service members, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence.”

“America and world cannot afford war,” she added.

Her Democratic House colleague Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN however the attacks “could very well” mean that the US was at war.

“The president and his crew had better figure out a way to… tone down everything because we could be in the middle of a full-fledged war, and I don’t think that is something anybody wants,” he said.