Wednesday 21 August 2019

US military was 'cocked and loaded' to hit Iran

Fears: Protesters hold signs spelling out ‘No War’ outside the White House in Washington. Photo: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
Fears: Protesters hold signs spelling out ‘No War’ outside the White House in Washington. Photo: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

Erin Cunningham

President Donald Trump has warned the US military was "cocked and loaded to retaliate" against Iran.

Mr Trump also admitted he changed his mind 10 minutes before planned strikes on Thursday.

Attacks on three sites were planned in response to the shooting down of a US unmanned drone on Monday.

But Mr Trump said he called off the strikes when he was told 150 people would die.

He tweeted: "10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone".

"I am in no hurry," Mr Trump said yesterday. "Our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go, by far the best in the world."

Mr Trump had ordered the attack in retaliation for the downing of a surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz, officials said.

Administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security decisions, said the president approved the strikes after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down a navy RQ-4 Global Hawk operating off Iran's southern coast, a move Mr Trump described as a "very big mistake".

It was not immediately clear why Mr Trump had decided to pull back the operation or what it would have included. The decision was first reported by the 'New York Times'.

The administration did not make a formal announcement regarding military action.

Iran's state-controlled broadcaster yesterday published images it said showed pieces of the drone recovered from the debris field. The photographs, published by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, could not be independently verified. Iranian officials told the Reuters news agency that Tehran received a message from Mr Trump through Oman overnight warning that a US attack was imminent.

"Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues," Reuters quoted one official as saying. "He gave a short period of time to get our response." The official added that it was up to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to decide whether to respond.

Iran's permanent mission to the United Nations did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Federal Aviation Administration barred US-registered aircraft from operating over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, due to an increase in military activities and political tensions that it said might "place commercial flights at risk".

Several US and international carriers said that they had either cancelled flights over Iranian airspace or were taking steps to avoid the Strait of Hormuz.

The aborted operation to strike Iran capped a day in which news of the drone's downing heaped fuel on already heightened fears that the United States and Iran were on a course toward a military conflict as each side blamed the other for the incident. Tehran and Washington gave conflicting accounts of what occurred when the drone with an airliner's wingspan crashed into the sea. While Iran said the aircraft had entered its airspace, the US Central Command denied that assertion, characterising the incident as an "unprovoked attack" over one of the world's most important commercial waterways.

In remarks alongside visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, Mr Trump condemned the shoot-down but also appeared to tamp down speculation that a counterstrike might be in the works, saying the drone may have been shot down without the knowledge of Iranian leaders.

"I'm not just talking about the country made a mistake. I'm talking about somebody under the command of that country made a mistake," Mr Trump said at the White House.

"I find it hard to believe it was intentional" on the part of Iran's top officials, the president said.

Mr Trump was non-committal about a US counter-attack. "Let's see what happens," he said.

"This is a new fly in the ointment - what happened, shooting down the drone - and this country will not stand for it," he added.

The White House invited a bipartisan group of top congressional leaders to a meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss the situation. Among those invited were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (© 2019, The Washington Post)

Irish Independent

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