President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the White House on the missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing U.S. troops. Picture: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Dubai – President Donald Trump has stepped back from new military action against Iran after its missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops caused no casualties but he told Iran he would tighten already crippling U.S. sanctions.

Trump and Iranian officials looked to defuse a crisis that on Wednesday had threatened to spiral into open conflict after the killing of a prominent Iranian general in Iraq on January 3 in a US drone strike was followed by Iran’s retaliatory attack.

The tit-for-tat military action, after months of rising tension since the United States withdrew in 2018 from Iran’s nuclear pact with world powers, had stoked global concerns that the Middle East was heading towards another war.

But both sides drew back from the brink, while Arab and other international leaders called for restraint. In Iraq, Muslim Shia groups, opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, also sought to cool passions.

“The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it,” Trump told the nation after saying Iranian ballistic missiles fired in the early hours of Wednesday caused no casualties and limited damage.