President Donald Trump approved a military strike against Iran on Thursday. It was reportedly pulled back at the last minute, however, with planes in the air and ships in the air and ships in position to attack. The strike would have been in response to a provocation by Iran, which saw it shoot down a U.S. drone that was in international air space.
“As late as 7 p.m. Thursday, military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations,” The New York Times reported. “Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries,” The Times continued. “The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.”
The would-be attack was in response to Iran shooting down the Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk drone that was deployed to the Middle East in the past few days as part of reinforcements approved by President Trump last month.
A statement read to reporters at the Pentagon by Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command said the drone was flying over the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz on a surveillance mission in international airspace when it was shot down from the missile fired from a location near Goruk, Iran. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time during its mission,” Guastella said. “This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and free flow of commerce.”
Guastella said that the drone was operating at a “high-altitude” approximately 34 kilometers from the closest point of land on the Iranian coast when it was shot down by the missile. “This dangerous and escalatory attack was irresponsible and occurred in the vicinity of established air corridors between Dubai, UAE, and Muscat Oman, possibly endangering innocent civilians,” he said.
The purpose of the U.S. Navy’s RQ-4A Global Hawk drone is to provide real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions “over vast ocean and coastal regions,” according to the military. Officials are now scrambling to recover the wreckage from the water before Iranian forces recover it and steal the technology. Iran made an attempt to shoot down another U.S. drone, but that attempt failed as the missile missed.
A commander for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claimed they shot down the U.S. drone because it was over Iranian airspace at the time, and it was – but American officials are insistent that the incident occurred in international airspace. “We do not have any intention for war with any country, but we are fully ready for war,” Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami said in a televised address.
This strike is just the latest in a series of dangerous outbursts from Iran, who seems to be intentionally raising tensions between them and the United States. President Trump said strongly on Twitter that “Iran made a very big mistake!” He then went on to say, “I find it hard to believe it was intentional, and it could have been someone who was loose and stupid.”