President Donald Trump used social media to announce that he called off an attack on Iran 10 minutes before it was scheduled to happen after a general told him it could result in 150 deaths.
In a series of tweets, Trump said he called off a military strike because the attack would have been a disproportionate response to an unmanned American surveillance drone that was shot down by Iranian defenses.
“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump wrote. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 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 said the US strike was cancelled because he decided there would be too many Iranian deaths to compensate for the RQ-4A Global Hawk, a $220 million unmanned flying machine that acts as a massive surveillance platform in the sky.
Pentagon officials announced that Iran shot down an unmanned Navy RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance aircraft, escalating an already tense situation in the Strait of Hormuz.
Tehran has said the drone was flying over Iranian airspace, while American officials have been adamant the aircraft was in international airspace.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said the Iranian action “was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time during its mission.”
Guastella spoke to reporters via telephone from the Air Operations Center in Qatar.
The drone aircraft, which has a wingspan of 131 feet, was on a reconnaissance mission in the Gulf of Oman following last week’s Iranian alleged attacks on oil tankers sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Oil prices surged after two oil tankers were damaged on Thursday, June 13, 2019, near the entrance to the Persian Gulf.
The Trump administration is terribly unprepared for high-stakes diplomatic efforts of the kind needed to avert a military confrontation between the U.S. and Iran.
The incidents, including an attack on a Japanese-owned vessel, were the second in a month to hit ships near the Strait of Hormuz chokepoint, through which about 40% of the world’s seaborne oil travels.
They come as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a rare ally of both Donald Trump and Iranian leaders, visits Tehran in an effort to ease tensions.
U.S. officials maintain that Iran is carrying out the oil tanker attacks to shut down the strategic strait through which a significant percentage of the world’s oil passes.
Guastella said an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps unit based in Goruk, Iran, fired the missile that brought down the U.S. surveillance asset.
“This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and free flow of commerce,” Guastella said. “Iranian reports that this aircraft was shot down over Iran are categorically false.”
Trump abandoned a year ago the 2015 deal that was meant to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb and reimposed sanctions in a bid to force the Islamic Republic to rein in its military program and proxy militias. Facing economic catastrophe, Iran has threatened to retreat from the accord itself unless European parties throw it an economic lifeline.
The prospects of a conflict have increased since the Trump administration tightened in early May its sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
The remotely piloted aircraft was over the Strait of Hormuz and fell into international waters. “At the time of the intercept, the RQ-4 was operating at high altitude, approximately 34 kilometers from the nearest point of land on the Iranian coast,” Guastella said. “This dangerous and escalatory attack was irresponsible and occurred in the vicinity of established air corridors between Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Muscat, Oman, possibly endangering innocent civilians.”
Navy explosive ordnance officials in the United Arab Emirates presented the evidence they found during an inspection of the damage to the Japanese tanker M/V Kokura Courageous. “I can tell you now that it is [U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s] assessment that the attack on M/V Kokuka Courageous and the damage that was caused was a result of limpet mines that were attached to the skin of the ship,” said Navy Cmdr. Sean Kido, commander of Task Group 56.1.
“What I can tell you is that the limpet mine that was used in the attack is distinguishable and is also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades,” he said.
The fact that Trump called off the strike at the last minute suggests that he was not paying attention when generals described the proposed action.
Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the rising tensions with Iran require a ‘strong, steady hand and a clear strategy and frankly we don’t have that right now.’
Sen. Bernie Sanders strongly condemned the administration’s Iran policy, flatly saying he does not trust the Trump’s claim that Iran is behind the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.
Former Vice President Joe Biden called Trump’s Iran strategy a “self-inflicted disaster” as he blamed the Republican for increasing the risk of “military conflict,” with the decision to abandon the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran.
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