President Trump approved U.S. military strikes on multiple targets in Iran on Thursday but changed his mind at the last minute, according to The New York Times. Multiple senior administration officials cited by the Times said military and diplomatic officials were waiting for a strike Thursday evening when the operation was suddenly called off.
One source said planes were already in the air and ships had gotten into position when the call came down that the operation was not going ahead. It was not immediately clear why the strike was called off, but Trump had appeared to walk back his accusations against Iran earlier Thursday by suggesting on Twitter that the country had not intentionally shot down a U.S. drone.
It was also not immediately clear if there were plans for the strikes to go ahead at a different time. Newsweek cited a Pentagon official as saying U.S. military assets in the region were placed on a 72-hour standby.
The drone incident on Thursday was just the latest in a growing list of disputes between Tehran and Washington to raise fears that one simple diplomatic misunderstanding between the two countries could trigger a full-on military confrontation.
Tensions have gotten so high that the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday blocked all American-registered planes from flying over parts of the Middle East, citing "heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region" that pose "an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations."
It was not immediately clear if the FAA order came in response to news reports about the Trump administration's planned airstrike, but the agency cited Iran's shooting down of a U.S. drone early Thursday as a reason to fear aircraft could be at risk in the region.
Will America Attack Iran Over One Dead Robot?
While Trump and his advisers have insisted the drone Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down Thursday was over international waters, Iranian leaders have claimed to have GPS proof that the unmanned drone flew into the country's airspace despite radio warnings.
The shooting down of the drone also came as many Democratic lawmakers had already begun to question whether the Trump administration was actively trying to build a case for military action against Iran in response to what top officials have described as escalating threats from the country since Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal last year.
Just last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed Trump in blaming Iran for attacks on two fuel tankers in the Gulf of Oman, claiming Tehran was "lashing out" to get back at the U.S. for sanctions.
The Trump administration announced last month that it would be sending additional troops to the Middle East "to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime," as National Security Adviser John Bolton put it at the time.
When reports of the called-off military strikes on Iran broke late Thursday, Democratic lawmakers took to Twitter to sound the alarm over the matter.
"This is governing by chaos. We need a steady hand at the wheel. I stood up against the Iraq War and I know that America cannot afford another disastrous war in the Middle East," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a 2020 candidate, wrote.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is also running for president, accused Trump of "instigating" conflict with Iran. "Donald Trump promised to bring our troops home. Instead he has pulled out of a deal that was working and instigated another unnecessary conflict. There is no justification for further escalating this crisis-we need to step back from the brink of war," she wrote.
Trump Tells His Team to Tone Down the Tough Talk on Iran
Read more at The Daily Beast.
Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here
Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!
Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.