US President Donald Trump on Friday said he issued cancelation 10 minutes before a strike on Iran. Trump said the Pentagon had selected three sites in Iran for bombing.
â€œOn Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not....â€
....On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not....â€” Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
"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,â€ he tweeted.
On Thursday, Trump approved but then scrapped strikes against Iranian targets, The New York Times reported, after Iran shot down a US drone in what the president termed a "big mistake."
"I am in no hurry," Trump said in a series of tweets detailing his thought process during the late Thursday decision to send, and then recall, US forces.
The revelations by Trump were highly unusual for a president and they gave new insight into the long-running internal debate at the White House over its Middle East policy.
Trump campaigned for the presidency on a platform of extricating the United States from military quagmires. However, some of his closest advisers, such as national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are said to favour a far more muscular US strategy.
Trump has labelled Iran a danger and has sought to wreck a complex international accord on rewarding the country for allowing verification of its nuclear industry, primarily by unilaterally withdrawing from the deal.
At the same time, Trump has repeatedly sought to downplay moments of tension, repeating his reluctance to see the dispute escalate to military conflict.
That volatile situation came to a head this week when Iran shot down a large US surveillance drone. Tehran says the drone had entered its airspace, while Washington says it was in international waters.
The US was planning to hit "a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries" on Thursday evening, the newspaper said, citing senior administration officials, but the plan was suddenly aborted in its early stages.
Iran said earlier it had recovered parts of a US Global Hawk spy drone in its territorial waters after downing the aircraft in a missile strike, but the Pentagon says it was above international waters when it was hit.
"Iran made a very big mistake!" Trump tweeted, before later appearing to dial back tensions.
"I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth," Trump said. "I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it." The president's mixed message left the world unsure what Washington's next move would be.
"You will find out," Trump said, when asked about possible retaliation.
"We don't seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
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(With agency inputs)