Dubai: President Donald Trump said Friday he is in "no hurry" to bomb Iran, revealing that US forces were "cocked and loaded" but that he called them back with minutes to go in order to avoid mass casualties.
"I am in no hurry," Trump said in a series of tweets detailing his thought process during the late Thursday decision to send, then recall US forces meant to retaliate for the downing by Iran of a US spy drone.
"10 minutes before the strike I stopped it," the president said, explaining that a general had told him to expect 150 deaths on the Iranian side and that he had concluded this would not be a "proportionate" response.
What happened earlier
Iranian officials told Reuters on Friday that Tehran had received a message from U.S. President Donald Trump through Oman overnight warning that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent.
They spoke shortly after the New York Times reported that Trump had approved military strikes against Iran on Friday in retaliation for the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, but called off the attacks at the last minute.
“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues...He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei to decide about this issue,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A second Iranian official said: “We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision...However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.”
After weeks of rising tension amid a spate of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran said on Thursday it had shot down an unmanned U.S. military surveillance drone, fanning fears of an overt military confrontation between the longtime adversaries.
The New Times quoted a senior administration official as saying, U.S. warplanes took to the air and ships were put in position for a retaliatory attack only for an order to come to stand down, without any weapons being fired.
Targets had included Iranian radar and missile batteries, the paper cited senior administration officials involved in, or briefed on, the deliberations, as saying.
The strikes were set for early in the day to minimize risk to the Iranian military or to civilians, the Times added.
It was unclear if attacks on Iran might go ahead later, it added, nor was it known whether Trump had changed his mind or whether his administration had become concerned about logistics or strategy.
"Diplomacy not to be met with miltary force"
The US said Friday Iran has no right to respond to diplomacy "with military force", a day after Tehran shot down a US reconnaissance drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
"Our diplomacy does not give Iran the right to respond with military force," Brian Hook, the US special representative on Iran, told reporters in Saudi Arabia.
"Iran needs to meet diplomacy with diplomacy, not military force."
- Reuters, AFP