Washington (CNN)There is a growing belief among some Trump administration officials ThatIranian missilesintentionally missed areas populated by Americans when they targeted two Iraqi bases housing US troops early Wednesday local time, multiple administration officials said.
Iran fired a number of missiles aimed at the bases in retaliation for the American
strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimanilast week, further escalating tensions between the two countries. Officials have said there were no US casualties as a result of the attacks, though a full assessment is underway.
The administration officials floated the notion that Iran could have directed their missiles to hit areas that are populated by Americans, but intentionally did not.
And they suggested Iran may have chosen to send a message rather than take significant enough action to provoke a substantial US military response, a possible signal the administration was looking for rationale to calm the tensions.
Iranian missiles also landed close to the US consulate in Erbil, but did not target the consulate itself, though the belief is that they could have.
“We could have done it and we did do it,” is the message Iranians appeared to be sending, a State Department official said.
The US gave Iran the “opportunity to do what they needed to do and not escalate by killing Americans,” the official said, suggesting how the administration could frame the retaliation. This was “a smart move” by the Iranians who demonstrated that they had “more to lose” if they killed Americans.
In remarks to the nation Wednesday morning, Trump signaled a de-escalation of tensions between the US and Iran.
“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, striking a somber tone in a speech at the White House.
Now, the major question is if Iranian proxies follow suit, the official explained. Pompeo is “pragmatic” right now and the general sentiment Tuesday night was “let’s take a breath.”
There were no additional moves taken overnight to add any more protection to US diplomatic facilities abroad.
Iraq received “an official verbal message” from Iran about the missile attack shortly before midnight on Wednesday, according to a statement from Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. He said Iraq was told that the strike would be “limited to the whereabouts of the US military in Iraq, without giving the exact location.”
Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, one of Iran’s most powerful men, has touched off a fresh crisis between the US and Iran. Following the strike, Pompeo and other top officials had said US wants to de-escalate the crisis, but Trump on Saturday vowed specific military action against Iran if it “strikes any Americans, or American assets.”
This story has been updated to include additional reporting.CNN’s Nicole Gaouette, Hamdi Alkhshali, Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr, Tamara Qiblawi, Zachary Cohen and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.)