Just hours after he brought the United States to the brink of war Thursday night by approving a military strike against Iran, President Donald Trump abruptly called off the attack before any missiles were fired.
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“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.”
—Sen. Chris Murphy
That’s according to the New York Times, which reported that as late as 7 pm Thursday, “military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders.”
“The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off,” the Times reported. “Planes were in the air and ships were in position.”
Iranian officials told Reuters Friday that Tehran received a message from Trump “through Oman overnight warning that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent.”
Citing anonymous senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the plan to attack Iran, the Times reported that it is “not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward.”
Trump confirmed in a series of tweets Friday morning that he ordered the strikes and then called them off:
The military strike—which was approved after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone that it said violated its airspace—was reportedly backed by national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA director Gina Haspel, a team critics have described as the president’s “war cabinet.”
According to the Times, Trump “initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.”
The Times‘ reporting, later confirmed by ABC News and other outlets, was met with alarm by lawmakers and anti-war critics who have been warning for months that the Trump administration’s belligerence towards Iran could lead to an all-out military conflict.
“Since day one of the Trump administration it has been clear that this is where we were heading,” tweeted Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War. “A completely reckless foreign policy in which decisions are based on personal vengeance and zero regard for consequences. A team of advisors obsessed with going to war [with] Iran.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in response to the Times report that the “place we have arrived at tonight on Iran is Donald Trump’s choice.”
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