White House

Trump says he aborted strike against Iran because it wouldn’t have been ‘proportionate’

President says U.S. forces were ‘cocked & loaded’ to hit targets but he called off operation 10 minutes before strike

President Donald Trump said Friday he was told by a general that a planned strike against Iran would have caused 150 deaths, so he called it off. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Friday defended his decision to abort strikes on three Iranian targets involved in shooting down a U.S. military drone, saying U.S. forces were “cocked & loaded,” but the expected 150 deaths would not have been a “proportionate” response.

The New York Times first reported that Trump ordered strikes on Iranian targets but then canceled the mission with U.S. aircraft en route to take out Iranian missile and radar sites.

“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........proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Trump’s decision to abort the mission, which would have answered one act of war with another and potentially kicked off the kind of major conflict in the Middle East that he campaigned in 2016 on ending, were a show of restraint from a commander in chief many Democratic lawmakers worry will side with his hardline advisers.

[Drums of looming Iran war resound in Congress]

Trump gave Iranian leaders some wiggle room Thursday, telling reporters he suspected the shooting down of the American MQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone was a “mistake” by a lower-level Iranian military commander who was “loose and stupid.”

On Friday morning, Trump again voiced restraint in some of his most candid remarks about operational details of a U.S. military operation on his preferred platform to communicate directly with the country. He also took a shot at his predecessor for making a “desperate and terrible deal” with Iran.

“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,” he tweeted, referring to tough economic sanctions that have hobbled Iran’s economy and put pressure on its government from within its own borders.

But Trump also repeated his pledge to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

“Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!” he wrote.

On Thursday, the president said had the drone been a manned aircraft, his decision-making would be much different.

After meeting with Trump, House and Senate leadership and leaders of the armed services and intelligence committees from both chambers on the drone shootdown Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer pushed for a floor vote to make clear that congressional authorization would be needed for military action against Iran.

“One of the best ways to avoid bumbling into war, a war that nobody wants, is to have a robust, open debate, and for Congress to have a real say,” Schumer said.

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