President Trump was faced a number of response options after Iran claimed responsibility for shooting down an unmanned American drone in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.
One option Trump could have chosen was a swift retaliation—a counter strike to enforce his statement that the United States “will not stand for it.”
Trump’s military generals were so convinced Trump was going to choose to retaliate with force that they readied missile and already sent out ships to carry out the mission—but Trump called it off.
The Washington Examiner reports:
The U.S. was just hours away from beginning military strikes against Iran, before President Trump reportedly pulled the plug on the operation.
The intended targets of the strikes, which were recommended by the Defense Department, would have included radars and missile batteries. Top military brass and diplomats were expecting the attack until the operation was called off around 7:30 p.m. Thursday night. Planes were already in the air and ships were readying for the escalation, but no missiles were ever fired.
Trump spent most of Thursday huddled with top national security officials and congressional leaders discussing U.S. strategy for Iran. Iran shot down a U.S. drone earlier, prompting the discussions about the planned attack.
USA Today similarly reports:
“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump said, adding: “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.”
Trump added that he is in “no hurry” to respond to Iran because “our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night.”
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The president’s decision followed a day of high tensions in Washington as he and military officials weighed their options for retaliating against Iran. The nation claimed it shot the drone because it violated Iranian airspace, a claim the U.S. says is false.
Speaking to a group of reporters at the White House, President Trump described Iran’s unsolicited downing of the drone as a “very foolish move.”
“We’ll be able to report back and you’ll understand exactly what happened, but it was a very foolish move, that I can tell you,” Trump said via the Washington Examiner. “This is a new wrinkle, this is a new fly in the ointment, what happened, shooting down the drone. And this country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.”
The president also explained his hesitation in retaliating: “I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth. I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”
According to a report from Reuters, President Trump’s decision not to strike Iran may have prevented Iran from attacking a maritime patrol aircraft with 35 people aboard.
From the report:
Iran refrained from shooting down a U.S. plane with 35 people on board that was accompanying the downed drone in the Gulf, a Revolutionary Guards commander said on Friday.
Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency: “With the U.S. drone in the region there was also an American P-8 plane with 35 people on board. This plane also entered our airspace and we could have shot it down, but we did not.”