President Donald Trump reportedly ordered a missile strike against Iran to begin early Friday morning, but then halted operations.
The strike was on until 7 p.m. Thursday night, according to the New York Times, which is citing senior administration officials as sources. The president was allegedly aiming to hit military targets in Iran and had positioned aircraft and ships to begin firing, but ordered a stand-down at the last minute.
The military action would have been in response to the downing of a U.S. Navy drone by an Iranian surface-to-air missile on Thursday. While the U.S. military insists the drone was in international airspace, the Iranians continue to say the unmanned aircraft had wandered into Iranian airspace. (RELATED: Video Shows Iran Removing A Mine From Oil Tanker, US Says)
Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, described the alleged violation as crossing “our red line,” according to the Mehr news agency.
“We are not going to get engaged in a war with any country, but we are fully prepared for war,” Salami is quoted by the agency as saying, while he was officiating at a martial ceremony in Sanandaj, Iran. “Today’s incident was a clear sign of this precise message, so we are continuing our resistance.”
Although it’s unclear exactly why Trump reportedly decided to abort the strike, the president’s national security advisers appear divided as to whether a military option in response to apparent Iranian aggression is the appropriate one.
According to the Times, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton and CIA Director Gina Haspel are the hawks favouring a strike, while senior officers in the Department of Defense are urging caution and warning that military action could quickly cascade beyond America’s control. (RELATED: Pompeo In Warsaw: Peace Can’t Exist Without ‘Confronting Iran)
The current stand-off between the U.S. and Iran began when Bolton announced that the U.S. was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region due to a “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.”
The U.S said Monday that it planned to send 1,000 troops to the Middle East in an apparent reaction to Iran’s recent actions.
Trump pulled the U.S. out of a nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 that was supposed to eradicate the country’s nuclear weapons program, but that critics said lacked sufficient verification measures.