WASHINGTON: U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he called off a retaliatory strike on Iranian targets that would have killed 150 people, calling it a disproportionate response to the downing of an American drone earlier this week.
“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,” Trump said on Twitter. “10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”
Trump has vowed to retaliate for Iran’s Monday downing of a reconnaissance drone. Iran says the aircraft violated its airspace when it was attacked, but the Trump administration maintains it was in international airspace.
“I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night,” tweeted Trump.
“Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”
The New York Times first reported the attacks were halted by the president.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice late Thursday prohibiting U.S. airliners from flying over parts of Iran-controlled airspace after Trump vowed the public would “find out” what the U.S. response would be to the downing of the American drone.
Tensions have been rising between the U.S. and Iran since last year, when Washington unilaterally withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the EU.
The U.S. has since embarked upon a diplomatic and economic campaign to ramp up pressure on Iran to force it to renegotiate the agreement.
Part of its campaign has included the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on exports of Iranian crude oil, which has sent the Iranian economy into a nosedive.
The U.S. has also increased its military presence in the Middle East, deploying a carrier strike force, bomber task force and Patriot missile battery and using threats from Iran as justification for the actions.
On Monday, the Trump administration announced it would be sending an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East, citing increased threats from Iran. (AA)