Trump says US 'cocked & loaded' on Iran, but death toll was too high
Trump says 'we were cocked & loa
Trump says 'we were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night' but he called off Iran strike with 10 minutes to go because killing 150 people isn't a 'proportionate' response to downing an unmanned drone
- Iranian officials said Trump asked for talks with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
- Tehran released images of the wrecked drone stripped of its internal technology
- Trump has been commended for his restraint after reportedly calling a last minute halt to strikes as late as 7pm on Thursday
- Those in favor of a military response reportedly included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John R. Bolton and CIA director Gina Haspel
- Trump met Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell at the White House last night
- Pentagon released video showing a smoke trail from the downed naval drone
- The high-altitude, long-endurance recon drone was brought down Wednesday
- It was denounced as an 'unprovoked attack' in international air space by the US
- Iran claimed debris was found in their territorial waters and said the US had been issued two warnings before they shot the drone down eight miles from land
- In a letter addressed to the UN Iran called it a 'dangerous and provocative' act
- President Donald Trump had initially labeled the a missile strike a 'big mistake'
- He then moved to dial tensions down, suggesting it may have been shot in error
- United Airlines, Qantas, Air Frace and KLM have changed flight routes in the Gulf
Donald Trump said Friday he was ready to attack three Iranian sites on Thursday night but he called off the strikes after learning the assault would kill an estimated 150 people.
'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,' he said in tweets, 'not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.'
He said, '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. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!'
Trump said Thursday that he believed someone 'loose and stupid,' possibly a general, ordered the strike and he had a 'big, big feeling' that someone made a mistake.
'I have a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody who shouldn't have been doing it,' he assessed.
Trump suggested that loss of life was a factor in his thinking then. 'We didn't have a man or woman in the drone,' he argued. 'It would have made a big, big difference.'
But he promised the U.S. would not leave the attack unanswered. 'This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you,' he said.
Donald Trump said Friday he was ready to attack three Iranian sites on Thursday night but he called off the strikes after learning the assault would kill an estimated 150 people
International leaders did not rush to judgment. Russian President Vladimir Putin simply said of a confrontation, 'It would be a catastrophe for the region as a minimum.'
Lawmakers in the U.S. meanwhile encouraged Trump to take a 'measured' approach to answering the drone attack and warned him that Iran is begging for war.
Tehran said it doesn't want a military conflict and claimed it had issued two warnings to the Americans before shooting the spy plane down eight miles from its shores.
'Unfortunately, when they failed to reply... and the aircraft made no change to its trajectory... we were obliged to shoot it down,' Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said.
Iranian state TV today showed off debris from the downed spy plane, including its fuselage, but none of the secret technology contained within.
Reuters reported that Trump sent a message via Oman to Iran calling for talks and de-escalation, but the Iranians are disputing information that appeared in the article.
'In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues,' an Iranian source told Reuters. '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.'
The New York Times first reported that Trump that had authorized, and called off, airstrikes on Iranian radar and missile batteries.
Planes were in the air and ships were in position when the mission was called off - against the advice Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and CIA director Gina Haspel, according to the report.
Trump met with congressional leaders at the White House on Thursday afternoon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other legislators with top security clearance attended.
Schumer said the told the president that conflicts like this tend to escalate unintentionally.
'The president may not intend to go to war here, but we are worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war. We told the room that the Democratic position is that Congressional approval must be required before funding any conflict in Iran,' he said.
He argued in favor of a 'robust, open debate' within Congress. He said Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote on an amendment that require congressional approval for defense dollars to be spent on a military conflict with Iran.
'It's supported by all Democrats in the Senate. We are asking leader McConnell to do the right thing and give us a vote next week on the NDAA on that amendment,' he stated.
Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Friday that war would be a 'disaster' and Congress must 'assert its constitutional authority' to keep that from happening.
'A war with Iran would be a disaster and lead to endless conflict in the region. Congress must assert its constitutional authority and stop Trump from going to war,' he tweeted.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, another Democratic presidential candidate, claimed that the Trump administration is on a 'clear march' to a war that it does not have the authority wage.
'This is not reality television, where decisions are made in the pursuit of maximum drama,' he said in a statement. 'The President together with his top officials have been bent on escalating an already tenuous situation in the Middle East, with no plan in place to de-escalate tensions.'
Booker said, 'This is a crisis of his own making — his reckless and erratic Iran policy is responsible for this combustible moment.
'Any military action in Iran that circumvents Congressional approval is a blatant and unconstitutional power grab.'
Freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told a reporter for CNN on Capitol Hill that Tehran is trying to provoke the United States.
'I think they're trying to goad us into a military conflict that's completely irresponsible,' she said Thursday afternoon.
Trump, pictured with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, National security adviser John Bolton, center, and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, is said to have approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing a US drone but pulled back last minute
This grainy black and white footage shows the drone as it plummets from the sky
Iran released images purporting to show the fuselage of the wrecked US drone on Friday
The purported wreckage of the American drone is seen displayed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in Tehran
A section of the destroyed warplane released by Iran, amid fears over what Tehran and its allies might glean from its inner workings
Tehran had claimed earlier in the day that it had 'indisputable' evidence the drone violated its airspace.
But the U.S. said the drone was shot down 21 miles off the Iranian coast, in the Strait of Hormuz.
Pentagon video footage showed a smoke trail from the $180 million surveillance aircraft following a missile strike on the drone it says was flying over international waters.
Amid the increasing fears of open conflict, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed to Fox News that a 'measured response' would be coming from the White House.
In a statement, the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, and ranking lawmakers on security committees, Reps, Michael McCaul, Devin Nunes and Mac Thornberry, used similar language after the briefing with Trump and senior administration officials.
'There must be a measured response to these actions. President Trump and his national security team remain clear-eyed on the situation and what must be done in response to increased Iranian aggression,' they said. ''In Congress, we stand ready to support our men and women in uniform, our country, and our allies in the region.'
A section of the spy plane's fuselage lies on the floor after it was shot down just after 4am local time on Thursday
Debris from the wrecked drone was pictured by Iranian media as Trump asked for talks with the Supreme leader
Iran said it had recovered parts of a US spy drone in its territorial waters, after downing the aircraft in a missile strike slammed by President Donald Trump as a 'big mistake'
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei next to Khordad-3 missile system last month - Trump has reportedly conveyed his demands to speak to the head of state
Trump gathered national security officials for a Situation Room meeting on Thursday afternoon. Haspel, Pompeo, Army Secretary Mark Esper and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan attended.
Shanahan arrived for the meeting with Trump holding a folder marked 'SECRET/NOFORN.'
Risks to Wall Street's rally abound despite record high
The benchmark S&P 500 index hit a record high on Thursday as an almost giddy euphoria over the prospects of a U.S. interest rate cut fueled the appetite for equities, but there are plenty of pitfalls that could throw the stock market off course.
It finished at a record closing high and the 10-year Treasury yield dipped below 2% for the first time in more than 2-1/2 years a day after the Federal Reserve signaled the potential for a rate cut as soon as its next meeting in July as it said it was ready to battle risks to the economy, including the U.S.-China trade war.
Adding to the uncertainty for stocks are worries about a potential military confrontation between Tehran and Washington. Oil prices jumped more than 5% on Thursday after Iran shot down a U.S. military drone.
Rising oil prices are a negative for stocks because they cut into consumer spending, said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.
Neither the Pentagon nor the White House has commented on the briefing.
Trump has twice taken military action against targets in the Middle East - in Syria in April of 2017 and 2018.
Officials at the Pentagon are said to have warned of escalation and risks for American forces of expanding the military footprint in the region to Iran.
Massachusetts Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren told Trump on Thursday that he 'needs to step back from the brink of war' in a tweet.
She said, 'Donald Trump promised to bring our troops home. Instead he has pulled out of a deal that was working and instigated another unnecessary conflict.
'There is no justification for further escalating this crisis—we need to step back from the brink of war.'
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said, 'The place we have arrived at tonight on Iran is Donald Trump's choice. He chose escalation over diplomacy, without any idea how to get out of the downward spiral he set in motion.'
On Friday morning, the U.S. president blamed former president Barack Obama for the present situation.
He said, 'President Obama made a desperate and terrible deal with Iran - Gave them 150 Billion Dollars plus I.8 Billion Dollars in CASH! Iran was in big trouble and he bailed them out. Gave them a free path to Nuclear Weapons, and SOON. Instead of saying thank you, Iran yelled Death to America.
'I terminated deal, which was not even ratified by Congress, and imposed strong sanctions. They are a much weakened nation today than at the beginning of my Presidency, when they were causing major problems throughout the Middle East. Now they are Bust!'
A fragment on display at the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps headquarters in Tehran on Friday
Purported parts of the wrecked Navy spyplane at IRGC headquarters in the capital today
Debris lies on display tables before banners picturing the Naval spy plane and its alleged route into Iranian airspace
Trump tweeted the Iranian military 'made a very big mistake' when it shot down a spy drone
Timeline: Escalation in the Gulf region
May 5: The U.S. says it is sending the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group and a bomber task force to the Middle East because of a 'credible threat' from Iran.
Since then Washington has announced the dispatch to the region of an amphibious assault ship, a Patriot missile battery and an extra 1,500 troops.
May 8: Iran vows to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels starting July 7 if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its nuclear deal.
The U.S. responds by imposing fresh sanctions on Iran's steel and mining sectors.
Smoke pours from the Norwegian-owned oil tanker on Thursday after it was hit by an explosion near the UAE and Iran in an apparent attack which has put the Middle East on high alert
May 12: Two Saudi oil tankers and two other ships are damaged in mysterious 'sabotage attacks' off the coast of Fujairah, part of the United Arab Emirates.
Washington believes Iran is to blame for the attacks, but Tehran denies involvement.
May 14: Yemen's pro-Iranian Huthi rebels carry out drone attacks near Riyadh, shutting down a key Saudi oil pipeline.
Two days later Saudi-led coalition air strikes hit the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa.
The next day the U.S. orders all non-emergency diplomats to leave Iraq, due to an 'imminent' threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias.
May 19: Trump warns that if Iran attacks American interests 'that will be the official end of Iran'.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the 'genocidal taunts' of U.S. Trump will not 'end Iran'.
May 27: Trump says the U.S. is 'not looking for regime change' in Iran.
May 30: Saudi Arabia - which accuses Iran of being behind the acts of sabotage and the drone attack in May - gets the backing of Arab leaders in its standoff with Tehran at summits organised by Riyadh.
Iran accuses Riyadh of 'sowing division'.
Inferno: A fire rages on board the oil tanker MT Front Altair after it was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, in what has been described as a torpedo attack
June 6: The UAE says a multinational investigation into the sabotage attacks point to the likelihood a state was behind them, without incriminating Iran.
June 12: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives in Tehran in a bid to mediate between Washington and Tehran.
A Yemeni rebel missile attack on an airport at Abha, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, wounds 26 civilians. The Saudis accuse Iran of supplying the weapon.
June 13: Two tankers, Norwegian and Japanese, are hit by explosions in apparent attacks in the Gulf of Oman.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet says that it received two separate distress calls from the tankers in a 'reported attack'.
Foreign Minister Zarif says the tanker 'attacks' as Abe visits are 'suspicious'.
Mr Abe meets Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who tells him: 'I don't consider Trump as a person worthy of exchanging messages with. I have no response for him and will not answer him.'
Trump went on to confirm in tweets that he was ready to pull the trigger on strikes but pulled back when he learned the death toll would be high.
He said he decided that 150 deaths was a not a 'proportionate' response to an unmanned drone strike that resulted in no loss of American life.
He claimed new sanctions had been put on Tehran in retaliation. He did not say what they were, and Treasury had not announced new punishing actions as of Friday morning.
On Thursday evening the the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order prohibiting all U.S. flights in over water area of Tehran-controlled airspace above Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.
This followed an earlier release by United Airlines that said it had suspended flights between New Jersey's Newark airport and the Indian financial capital of Mumbai following a safety review.
'Given current events in Iran, we have conducted a thorough safety and security review of our India service through Iranian airspace and decided to suspend our service between EWR and BOM,' United said on its website, referring to the airports.
Qantas, Air France and KLM announced later they would also avoid flights through the region.
Earlier Thursday the US suggested the drone - which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 - was shot down 21 miles off the Iranian coast in the Strait of Hormuz.
Lt Gen Joseph Guastella, commander of U.S. Central Command air forces in the region, said: 'This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time.'
But the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it brought the drone down because it was 'violating Iranian air space' over the waters of Hormozgan province.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif provided coordinates to back the claim and said Iran would take the evidence to the United Nations.
'At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace,' Zarif tweeted. 'It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25°59'43'N 57°02'25'E) near Kouh-e Mobarak.'
'We've retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.'
Central Command finally revealed their location for the drone as administration officials met for the hour long classified briefing with Trump in the situation room.
The Pentagon denounced the strike as an 'unprovoked attack' in international air space, claiming the navy drone was some 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Iran when destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.
Outgoing acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives for a meeting with President Donald Trump about Iran carrying a folder marked secret, at the White House
The US-made surveillance drone was brought down by Iran over the southern coastal province of Hormozgan, the Revolutionary Guard claimed
A handout TV grab made available by Iran state television English service press TV (PTV) reportedly shows Iran's surface-to-air missile system 'Khordad-3' as it launches to shoot down a US surveillance drone
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it brought the drone down as it was 'violating Iranian air space' over the waters of Hormozgan province
Why Iran is launching attacks in the Gulf
Some experts believe it's because they have nothing lose. The economy is expected to shrink by six per cent this year, on top of a 3.9 per cent contraction last year, according to the IMF.
In the pre-Trump sanctions year of 2017 however, the country recorded 3.8 per cent growth. As sanction getting tougher, the likelihood is Iran will become more aggressive and less risk averse.
The other major factor for Iran is oil, and this could be their sign of deterrence against the US ratcheting up pressure on Iranian oil exports.
According to Crisis Group, this method of ransoming the oil market could also benefit the Iranian economy by driving up shipping insurance premiums, helping recoup the cost of US sanctions.
Other strategy experts say that the Iranians are trying to call Trump's bluff by undermining him through small isolated incidents like the tanker.
'It's all about careful calibration and plausible deniability,' Hussein Ibish, of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told CNBC.
Acts like the explosion have not resulted in civilian casualties, and so could be a way to force Trump to reveal his future strategy. The President recently told Time magazine that the incident would 'not be worth' going to war over.
It could also be taken as a sign that Iran won't play fair if they are disadvantaged on oil exports. The Eurasia Group wrote in a June briefing that the sabotaging of the four tankers is an effort by Iran to demonstrate 'peace and security in the Gulf is contingent on its own economic stability'.
The Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway which is bordered by Iran to the north, accounts for 30 per cent of the world's seaborne oil traffic.
But despite the smart game-playing, these attacks on US drones and ship could still blow up in the face of the rogue state. When Iran was caught laying sea mines in the 1980s, one of which hit a US frigate, half of the country's Navy was wiped out. Could it happen again?
'The status quo is not sustainable for Iran,' says Hussein Ibish of the Arab Gulf States Institute. 'So they have the means, the motives and the opportunity… They do not seek a war, exactly, but they are obviously willing to risk one in order to get out of an impossible conundrum.'