President Donald Trump said on Friday the US was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran for downing an unmanned American surveillance drone but he canceled the strikes minutes before they were to be launched after being told 150 people could die.
Trump did not rule out a future strike but said in a TV interview that the likelihood of casualties from the Thursday night plan to attack three sites in Iran did not seem like the correct response to shooting down an unmanned drone earlier in the day in the Strait of Hormuz.
“I didn’t think it was proportionate,” he said in an interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press.
Trump told NBC News that he never gave a final order to launch the strikes — planes were not yet in the air but would have been “pretty soon.”
He said military officials came to him about 30 minutes before the strikes were to be launched and asked him for his final approval. Before signing off, he said he asked how many Iranians would be killed and was told approximately 150.
“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. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was proportionate.”
In his lengthy, morning tweet, Trump defended his stance on Iran amid criticism from Democrats who accuse him of having no strategy. He said his exit from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the reimposition of sanctions on Iran has crippled its economy.
“Now they are Bust!”
“I am in no hurry,” he said. “Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”
Trump spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Middle East stability and the oil market, the White House said, after tensions with Iran prompted a rise in oil prices.
“The two leaders discussed Saudi Arabia’s critical role in ensuring stability in the Middle East and in the global oil market. They also discussed the threat posed by the Iranian regime’s escalatory behavior,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.
Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman in his meeting with US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook in Riyadh on Friday discussed efforts to counter hostile Iranian activities that threaten the security and stability of the region.
“…(Iran) neglects the humanitarian needs of the Yemeni people in favor of using the country as the main launchpad for its regional terrorism,” Prince Khalid said.
Later, speaking to reporters in Al-Kharj, Hook said that the Iranian regime practiced an aggressive foreign policy and it was important to do everything to de-escalate tensions.
Hook said: “The Iranian regime runs an expansionist and violent foreign policy through surrogacy such as the Houthis, Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
He said: “On the latest efforts to counter Iranian attacks through their surrogates in Saudi Arabia, our maximum pressure campaign against Iran is working, Iran is feeling the pressure of the campaign.”