Why America and Iran Came Within Minutes of War

Sebastien Roblin

Sebastien Roblin

Security,

Here is what went down. 

Why America and Iran Came Within Minutes of War

If America wants Iran to change its behavior, it will have to re-establish ruptured lines of communication and re-create genuine incentives for diplomacy, rather than leading with threats of war and crushing sanctions. After all, the danger of devastating and messy regional war already underpins Iran’s own deterrence-based security strategy in the Persian Gulf—and games of chicken where neither side de-escalates end badly for everyone involved.

By most accounts, the United States and Iran came within minutes of armed conflict with each other on June 20, 2019. 

(This first appeared last month.)

Around 4:30 AM that morning, a U.S. Navy RQ-4N Global Hawk spy drone flying a routine circuit over international airspace in the Persian Gulf was shot down by an Iranian Ra’ad surface-to-air missile system.

Later that day, U.S. forces were ostensibly “ten minutes” away from striking three Iranian bases likely with air- and sea-launched missiles when President Donald Trump changed his mind and canceled the attack. He later cited concerns that killing an estimated 150 Iranians over the loss of an unmanned drone was a disproportionate response.

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