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Trump calls off Iran strikes at the last minute: NYT

Published Jun 21, 2019 04:09AM ET
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© Reuters. U.S. President Trump meetS with Canada's Prime Minister Trudeau at the White House in Washington

By Roberta Rampton, Phil Stewart and Parisa Hafezi

WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump approved military strikes against Iran on Friday in retaliation for the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, but called off the attacks at the last minute, the New York Times reported.

After weeks of rising tension amid a spate of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran said on Thursday it had shot down an unmanned U.S. military surveillance drone, fanning fears of an overt military confrontation between the longtime adversaries.

In response, the New York Times quoted a senior administration official as saying U.S. warplanes took to the air and ships were put in position for a retaliatory attack only for an order to come to stand down, without any weapons being fired.

Targets had included Iranian radar and missile batteries, the paper cited senior administration officials involved in, or briefed on, the deliberations, as saying.

The strikes were set for early in the day to minimize risk to the Iranian military or to civilians, the Times added.

It was unclear if attacks on Iran might go ahead later, it added, nor was it known whether Trump had changed his mind or whether his administration had become concerned about logistics or strategy.

Given the heightened tensions, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order on Thursday prohibiting U.S. operators from flying in Iran-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman until further notice.

In the wake of the FAA move, Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways Ltd, said its flights over the Middle East would avoid the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman.

Tehran said the unarmed Global Hawk surveillance drone was on a spy mission over its territory, but Washington said it was shot down over international airspace in the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump said initially the downing of the drone could have been carried out by someone who was acting "loose and stupid," adding that he suspected it was shot down by mistake.

"We had nobody in the drone. It would have made a big difference, let me tell you, it would have made a big, big difference" if the aircraft had been piloted, Trump said as he met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office.

ESCALATING INCIDENTS PUT UP OIL PRICES

The destruction of the drone compounded tensions escalating in the Gulf region, a critical artery for global oil supplies, where six oil tankers have been damaged by explosions in the past six weeks.

The Islamic Republic has denied involvement in the tanker attacks, but global jitters about a new Middle East conflagration disrupting oil exports have triggered a jump in crude prices.

Saudi Arabia, Washington's main Gulf ally, said Iran had created a grave situation with its "aggressive behavior" and the kingdom was consulting other Gulf Arab states on next steps.

Tensions with Iran flared with Trump's withdrawal last year from a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, and have worsened as Washington imposed fresh sanctions to throttle Tehran's vital oil trade. Iran retaliated earlier this week with a threat to breach limits on its nuclear activities imposed by the deal.

The U.S. sanctions have pounded Iran's economy, scuttling its oil exports and barring it from the dollar-dominated global finance system. That has undone the promise of trade rewards from the 2015 deal designed to curb its nuclear ambitions.

DISPUTE OVER DRONE'S LOCATION

Iranian state media said the "spy" drone was brought down over the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan, which is on the Gulf, with a locally made 3 Khordad missile.

Lieutenant General Joseph Guastella, the top U.S. Air Force commander in the Middle East, told reporters the drone was shot down at high altitude about 34 km (21 miles) from the nearest point of land on the Iranian coast.

U.S. Central Command later posted a tweet https://twitter.com/CENTCOM/status/1141854000192589824 that included a map of what Guastella called the drone's flight path showing it WAS outside Iran's territorial waters. "This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time," he added.

Independent confirmation of the drone's location when it was brought down was not immediately available.

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami accused Washington on Friday of trying to poison the world's view of Tehran.

"Very complicated and suspicious conditions exist in the region," Hatami told Iran's Labour News Agency. "It seems that all of this is in line with an overall policy for creating Iran phobia and creating a consensus against the Islamic Republic."

PRESSURE CAMPAIGN

The Trump administration is pursuing a campaign to isolate Iran and press it towards concessions on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its role in regional conflicts.

Washington said on Monday it would deploy about 1,000 more troops, along with Patriot missiles and manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, to the Middle East on top of a 1,500-troop increase announced after attacks on Gulf tankers in May, as well as deployments of aircraft carriers and B-52 bombers.

While U.S. rhetoric against Iran has sharped, European states - fellow signatories of the nuclear deal with Iran - have been more cautious, saying more evidence is needed to pinpoint responsibility for the tanker strikes.

They have sought to keep the nuclear deal alive despite the U.S. pullout, but Tehran has told them and other world powers who signed the accord that they must rein in Trump's aggressive stance towards Iran or it too will bow out of the deal.

Trump calls off Iran strikes at the last minute: NYT
 

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Comments (13)
Dietmar Stahl
Dietmar Stahl Jun 22, 2019 4:29AM ET
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Iran has the right to defend themselves. If a drone got cought up in it that's on US to not intrude or take a risk. Good job defending for Iran. Good job
Andrew Hook
Andrew Hook Jun 22, 2019 1:12AM ET
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In 1988 US shoot down an Iranian airplane ****288 persons. So it just a F drone no one was killed .
Yan Ponti
Yan Ponti Jun 21, 2019 8:10AM ET
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What will happen after, if they continueing they ego, on this economic situation....both side will be got worst impact. At the end " hope God give them clear and peace mind " .
Zai Li
Zai Li Jun 21, 2019 7:56AM ET
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All the show of force and threat didnt work I guess. When one country showed some backbone to the bully, the bully got scard and backed off making excuses
Mart Bab
Rubberduck1973 Jun 21, 2019 7:27AM ET
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imagin another country flying militairy spy drones near the US, for Some season the think is important
Tom OKray
Tom OKray Jun 21, 2019 7:08AM ET
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Trump chickened out, Commander an Chicken what a looser.
Joe Tan
Joe Tan Jun 21, 2019 6:02AM ET
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Trump has no good international excuse to retaliate as the Drone was shot down on a spying mission and the Drone was just piece of object; no human lives sacrificed. It is a big difference if he would to retaliate based on this as he wouldn’t be able to justify to the international community for the loss of human lifes later due to his reactive retalation.
Mark Steyn
Mark Steyn Jun 21, 2019 5:27AM ET
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Like I'm supposed to believe the NYT? Totally #FakeNews. Just as the Boy who cried wolf, nobody believes them anymore
Khai Quang
Khai Quang Jun 21, 2019 5:27AM ET
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help me, i dont know what news i can just, please, tell me the name
Andrew Hook
Andrew Hook Jun 21, 2019 5:27AM ET
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Khai mark can't read he is just watch FOK news who feed his brain and tell him what to "think"
Utkarsh sinha
Utkarsh sinha Jun 21, 2019 4:41AM ET
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Moat probably ue called Putin and Putin told we have alrwady deployed s 400 over there, ready to take on any attack.
Rami Daoudi
Rami Daoudi Jun 21, 2019 4:22AM ET
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Who cares about war when you have RATE CUTS
Mike Fasciana
Mike Fasciana Jun 21, 2019 4:22AM ET
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I've lost all faith in our economy. Greed is King. When this equity bubble bursts only the regular folk are going to be hurt while Wall Street and the elite will have lined their pockets from a BS rally.
Rami Daoudi
Rami Daoudi Jun 21, 2019 4:22AM ET
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Mike Fasciana  Same. We're nearing ATHs everywhere meanwhile macro environement has been deteriorating kinda quickly. Let's see how far this will go before the inevitable collapse.
 
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