Sat, Jun 22, 2019 - Page 1 News List

US preparations for Iran attack abruptly halted, official says

U-TURN?It was unclear how far preparations to attack Iranian radar and missile batteries had gone, but no shots were fired or missiles launched

AP, WASHINGTON

A US official yesterday said that the military made preparations on Thursday night for limited strikes on Iran in retaliation for the downing of a US surveillance drone, but approval was abruptly withdrawn before the attacks were launched.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the targets would have included radar and missile batteries.

The New York Times reported that US President Donald Trump had approved the strikes, but then called them off.

The newspaper cited anonymous senior administration officials.

The White House on Thursday night declined requests for information about whether Trump changed his mind.

The US official said the strikes were recommended by the Pentagon and were among the options presented to senior administration officials.

It was unclear how far the preparations had gone, but no shots were fired or missiles launched.

The military operation was called off at about 7:30pm Washington time, after Trump had spent most of Thursday discussing Iran strategy with top national security advisers and congressional leaders.

Asked earlier in the day about a US response to the attack, Trump said: “You’ll soon find out.”

Trump said that “Iran made a very big mistake” by shooting down the US drone over the Strait of Hormuz, but he also suggested that shooting down the drone was a foolish error rather than an intentional escalation of the tensions that have led to rising fears of open military conflict.

“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said at the White House. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”

On Capitol Hill, leaders urged caution to avoid escalation and some lawmakers insisted that the White House must consult with the US Congress before taking any action.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton have advocated hardline policies against Iran, but US Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said “the president certainly was listening” when congressional leaders at the meeting urged him to be cautious and not to escalate the already tense situation.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said no specific options for a US response were presented at the more than hour-long meeting.

“The administration is engaged in what I would call measured responses,” US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

The downing of the huge, uncrewed aircraft, which Iran portrayed as a deliberate defense of its territory rather than a mistake, was a stark reminder of the risk of military conflict between the US and Iran as the Trump administration combines a “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of US forces in the region.

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