US President Donald Trump said Friday he aborted a military strike on Iran because he estimated it could have killed 150 people, a disproportionate response to Tehran’s downing of an unmanned US spy drone.
Trump said the plan was to hit three different sites in response to the drone’s downing Thursday over the Strait of Hormuz.
In a series of early morning tweets, Trump said he was in no hurry to launch a strike and that US economic sanctions were allegedly having an effect.
He also said the United States imposed additional sanctions against Iran on Thursday night following the destruction of the Global Hawk drone by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, but it was not immediately clear what those economic penalties may have been.
“Ten minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” Trump tweeted.
White House national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CIA Director Gina Haspel, along with the rest of Trump’s team, favored a retaliatory strike, said a Trump administration official who asked not to be named.
Earlier Friday, Iranian officials told Reuters that Tehran had received a message from Trump warning that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent but saying that he was against war and wanted talks on a range of issues.
News of that message, delivered through Oman overnight, came shortly after the New York Times reported that Trump had called off airstrikes targeting Iranian radar and missile batteries at the last minute.
“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to decide about this issue.”
A second Iranian official said: “We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision.
“However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.”
Separately, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, told reporters Friday that a US spy plane with around 35 crew members was flying close to the unmanned drone that was shot down, but that Iran chose not to target the manned aircraft.
The told Iranian state TV that Iran warned the drone several times before downing it with a missile.