In a series of early morning tweets, United States President Donald Trump has confirmed that he called off a planned retaliatory strike against Iran, calling the planned attack disproportionate after Tehran earlier shot down an unmanned American surveillance drone.
The New York Times first reported the abrupt pullback from the Americans that was expected to be launched on Thursday night.
Military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike as late as 7 pm local time on Thursday, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the President’s top national security team and Congressional leaders.
President Trump says his forces were “cocked and loaded” to retaliate on three different sites when he enquired as to how many people would die.
The response he writes from a General was 150 – and ten minutes before the strike he stopped it, citing its disproportionality.
He says he’s in no hurry, arguing that sanctions targeting Iran were working after he withdrew the United States unilaterally from the multilateral nuclear deal– against objections from allies and the broader international community including the UN and US Envoy to Iran Brian Hook.
“Our diplomacy does not give Iran the right to respond with military force, and Iran needs to meet our diplomacy with diplomacy and not military force. So it’s important that we deny Iran a foothold in the Gulf, this is right on Saudi Arabia’s southern border and it’s important that we do everything we can to de-escalate Iran’s tensions.”
In a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Iran’s Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said his country does not seek war but will take appropriate necessary measures against any hostile act violating its territory.
Iran insists the drone was shot down in its airspace with the country’s Revolutionary Guard displaying what it says was debris, citing this as conclusive evidence of the US aerial violation.
Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Division says, “There were two warnings issued 10 minutes before the missile (surface to air from Revolutionary Guards missile battery) was fired. This aircraft (Global Hawk drone) is equipped in such a way that it can transmit warnings it receives from ground stations to its own ground control. As I have explained, those in control of the drone heard our warnings but paid no attention to them. In view of the fact that the aircraft had violated our borders, it was targeted by the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division surface-to-air missile and was shot down.”
The United States insists the drone was in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf of Oman – a critical oil-shipping lane that was the recent scene of disputed attacks on two oil tankers.
Brent crude is now above 65 dollars per barrel.
The UN Chief meanwhile has appealed for calm and called for the facts to be established through Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
“He’s very concerned about this latest development, about the shooting down of the drone. He’s warned against any escalation, stressed that the world cannot afford a major conflict in that area. I think it’s important that all parties exercise maximum restraint and avoid any action that could inflame the situation.”
The Federal Aviation Authority has told US airlines to avoid Iranian airspace while some European and Asian airlines are also following suit.
So what is clear from this latest escalation is that while the leaders of both countries have indicated that they have no appetite for war, their forces are most certainly ready for it.