In an extraordinary series of tweets riddled with typos and errors, President Trump on Friday explained his rationale for calling off a retaliatory military strike against Iran over the downing of a U.S. drone.
“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights [sic] when I asked, how many will die,” Trump tweeted. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.
“I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” the president continued. “Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”
Trump argued that sanctions he imposed on Tehran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement have “weakened” Iran.
In a subsequent interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Trump recalled the conversations he had before making the decision not to strike.
“They came and they said, ‘Sir, we’re ready to go. We’d like a decision.’ I said, ‘I want to know something before you go. How many people will be killed?’ In this case, Iranians,” Trump said. “I said, ‘How many people are going to be killed?’ ‘Uh, sir, I’d like to get back to you on that.’ Great people, these generals. They said, they came back, they said, ‘Sir. approximately 150.’ And I thought about it for a second and I said, you know what, they shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are sitting with 150 dead people, that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said, ’Go ahead.’”
He added: “I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was proportionate.”
Trump’s Friday tweets followed the downing of a U.S. military drone by Iranian fire early Thursday, an attack he erroneously said happened “Monday.” Iran claimed the drone was over its territory; the Pentagon says it was flying over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said at a press briefing. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”
Last week two oil tankers — the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned Front Altair — were damaged in attacks off the Iranian coast, attacks that the U.S. has also blamed on Iran.
The downing of the drone sparked fears of a possible new military conflict in the Middle East, despite Trump’s stated aversion to dragging the United States into another war.
[Former top U.S. diplomat: Trump’s Iran policy ‘untethered to any coherent strategy’]
“Iran made a very big mistake!” Trump tweeted soon after the attack. But in later remarks to reporters he put a slightly different spin on the comment, implying that the attack was unintentional, rather than the result of a strategic miscalculation.
“It was a general or somebody who made a mistake in shooting that drone down,” Trump said. “I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth. I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”
He added: “We didn’t have a man or woman in the drone. It would have made a big, big difference.”
The New York Times reported that Trump approved a retaliatory strike against Iran on Thursday night but abruptly called it off even as the U.S. military was poised to launch.
The report led several top Democrats to accuse Trump of escalating tensions with Tehran.
“There is no justification for further escalating this crisis,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted. “We need to step back from the brink of war.”
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