- President Donald Trump approved attacking Iranian targets after it downed a US drone, but backed out on Thursday evening, according to several senior US official cited in a New York Times report published Thursday.
- The attack was nixed as late as 7:00 pm local time, The Times reported.
- Officials were said to have planned to strike before dawn on Friday to minimise casualties, and targeted radar and missile batteries.
- It was reportedly unclear why the attack was called off or if the if the strikes were merely put on hold.
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President Donald Trump approved attacking Iranian targets after it downed a US drone on Wednesday, but backed out on Thursday evening, according to several senior US officials cited in a New York Times report published Thursday night.
Trump signed off on the plans after consulting with national security and congressional officials, and military leaders reportedly expected the strike to play out. The attack was nixed as late as 7:00 pm local time, The Times reported.
US officials reportedly wanted to minimise the casualties in the strike. Officials were said to have planned to strike before dawn on Friday and chose to target radar and missile batteries.
It was reportedly unclear if the strikes were called off due to the president’s change in decision, overall logistics, or if they were merely put on hold.
US military assets, including a guided-missile cruiser, were put on a 72-hour standby status, according to Newsweek.
The US strikes would have followed the downing of a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drone, a surveillance aircraft with a price tag of roughly $US123 million in 2015. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps shot the drone using a surface-to-air-missile on Thursday morning, an unnamed senior administration official said to The Times.
The IRGC claims the US drone was operating inside its airspace while US military officials denied the assertion.
Following the shooting, Trump characterised the event as a “very big mistake” made by someone “loose and stupid.” Trump added it was difficult for him “believe it was intentional.”
“I imagine it’s a general or somebody,” Trump said to reporters at the White House on Thursday.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday banned US airlines from flying over Iranian airspace and said “there were numerous civilian aircraft operating in the area” when the Iranian missile shot down the US drone.
Tensions between the US and Iran have dramatically escalated following the alleged attacks against two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The US accused Iran of the attacks and submitted video footage of what it claimed were Iranian troops detaching a limpet mine aboard a ship.
“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets, or US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “The Iranians believe that we won’t respond, and that’s why we’ve been very clear in our message.”
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