By Erin Cunningham, Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe | Washington Submit

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – President Donald Trump on Friday described a nail-biting choice to name off an imminent assault on Iran with the intention to keep away from disproportionate casualties, however the account is already going through scrutiny from aides round him and army analysts questioning the sequence of occasions he specified by tweets and statements.

Early within the day, the president stated he referred to as off the counterattack on the final minute as a result of it might kill 150 folks in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned surveillance drone. “We had been cocked & loaded to retaliate final night time on Three totally different sights once I requested, what number of will die,” he tweeted.

However administration officers stated Trump was instructed earlier Thursday what number of casualties may happen if a strike on Iran was carried out, and that he had given the inexperienced mild to organize for the operation Thursday morning.

The confusion bolstered considerations concerning the Trump administration’s credibility at a time when key U.S. allies are already questioning its narrative about Iran’s culpability for a latest spate of assaults on oil tankers.

Iran stated Friday that america had “no justification” for a retaliatory strike and vowed to reply “firmly” to any U.S. army motion.

Trump’s morning tweets appeared to gloss over the truth that he was the one, as commander in chief, who had ordered the retaliation in opposition to Iran within the first place.

Trump administration officers, who like others spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate delicate nationwide safety selections, stated the president permitted the strikes after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps earlier within the day shot down the Navy RQ-Four World Hawk, a transfer Trump described as a “very huge mistake.”

However he later modified his thoughts, the officers stated. The choice was first reported by the New York Occasions.

The commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division stated Friday that Iran had despatched “warnings” to the drone earlier than taking pictures it down. In an interview with Iran’s state-controlled broadcaster, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh stated a remaining warning was despatched at 3:55 a.m. native time Thursday.

“When it didn’t redirect its route and continued flying towards and into our territory, we needed to shoot it at 4:05 a.m.,” he stated. “Our nationwide safety is a pink line.”

He stated Iran shunned additionally taking pictures down a U.S. P-Eight patrol plane, with 35 folks on board, that he asserted had accompanied the drone into Iranian airspace. His declare couldn’t instantly be verified.

A senior U.S. protection official stated Friday morning that the Pentagon had Navy property poised to strike in Iran if directed, together with ships accompanying the plane service USS Abraham Lincoln. These assaults may have included airstrikes with jets, or – extra probably – Tomahawk cruise missiles, the official stated.

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Trump’s preliminary tweets instructed that he had canceled his personal order: “10 minutes earlier than the strike I finished it,” he stated. However in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd for “Meet the Press,” the president stated he hadn’t given remaining approval to any strikes and that no planes had been within the air.

“Nothing was inexperienced lighted till the very finish as a result of issues change,” Trump stated within the interview.

In his Twitter posts Friday morning, Trump wrote that “sanctions are biting & extra added final night time.” Nonetheless, the Treasury Division didn’t add any new sanctions in opposition to Iran on Thursday night time.

There was additionally confusion about how america and Iran had been speaking throughout the disaster at a time when the 2 adversaries have only a few diplomatic contacts.

The Reuters information company reported Friday that Iranian officers stated they acquired a message from Trump by means of Oman in a single day warning {that a} U.S. assault was imminent.

When requested concerning the report, a senior U.S. administration official stated america by no means despatched a message to Iran by way of the Omanis. The nation on the japanese nook of the Arabian peninsula has lengthy been an interlocutor between the West and Iran, however not on this event, the official stated.

“It’s a full lie and propaganda from Iran,” the official stated.

Earlier Friday, the top of Iranian media companies additionally instructed NBC Information that the Reuters report was inaccurate. He stated such a message from america was by no means despatched and the content material of the messages can be false.

The Federal Aviation Administration late Thursday barred U.S.-registered plane from working over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, as a result of a rise in army actions and political tensions that it stated may “place business flights in danger.”

A number of U.S. and worldwide carriers stated that that they had both canceled flights over Iranian airspace or had been taking steps to keep away from the Strait of Hormuz.

The day’s occasions have left lawmakers in each events confused about whether or not america stays on the precipice of a army battle or if an imminent disaster had been averted.

Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated Friday that she was not knowledgeable of Trump’s plans to strike Iran however described the most recent occasions as a “harmful, high-tension state of affairs.”

Whereas Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed confidence within the president, a number of hawks in Congress stated the one acceptable response can be a swift army counter-strike.

“They’re making an attempt to interrupt our will and intimidate us to come back to the negotiating desk,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., stated of the Iranians.

Trump’s feedback on Thursday additionally left room for questions on how his administration deliberate to reply to Iran. Instantly following the drone’s downing, he tweeted that “Iran made a mistake.”

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However Trump stated he discovered it “onerous to consider” that the assault on the drone “was intentional” on the a part of Iran’s prime officers. He additionally famous that the plane was unmanned. “There was no man or lady in it,” he stated. “It might have made a giant distinction” if a airplane carrying folks had been shot down. “It might have made a giant, huge distinction.”

However he additionally famous that the plane was unmanned. “There was no man or lady in it,” he stated. “It might have made a giant distinction” if a airplane carrying folks had been shot down. “It might have made a giant, huge distinction.”

Iran’s strike on the U.S. drone Thursday adopted a lot of latest incidents, together with assaults on tankers, that American officers have depicted as a part of an Iranian effort to harm america and its allies within the area. America has continued its “most stress” marketing campaign in opposition to a rustic the Trump administration has recognized as its major adversary within the Center East.

Tehran has responded with defiance to the marketing campaign, which was launched after Trump withdrew america from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and has included designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group and taking steps to chop off Iranian oil gross sales.

On Thursday, the European Union stated officers from Germany, Britain, France, Russia, China and Iran would meet subsequent week to debate methods to salvage the nuclear pact regardless of renewed U.S. sanctions and Tehran’s menace to exceed limits on its uranium stockpiles.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy protection minister stated Friday on Twitter that he met with Brian Hook, the State Division’s particular consultant for Iran, in Riyadh “to discover the most recent efforts to counter hostile Iranian acts.”

Hook referred to as Friday for measures to “de-escalate” the tense state of affairs with Iran. He instructed a information convention within the Saudi capital, “Our diplomacy doesn’t give Iran the best to reply with army pressure; Iran wants to satisfy our diplomacy with diplomacy and never army pressure,” Reuters reported. “It’s essential we do every little thing we will to de-escalate.”

The Revolutionary Guard’s prime commander, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, referred to as the downing of the drone “a transparent message to America.”

The carried out incident occurred the week after two tankers, one Japanese and one Norwegian, had been attacked within the Gulf of Oman. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for each incidents, a minimum of considered one of which is claimed to have been carried out by use of limpet mine just like gadgets beforehand displayed at Iranian army parades. Iran has denied involvement, calling the accusation “a lie.”

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The tanker incidents had been just like an assault on a tanker off the United Arab Emirates in Might. The U.S. army additionally accused Iran of firing a modified SA-7 surface-to-air missile at an MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Gulf of Oman because it surveilled the assault on the Japanese ship.

Additionally this month, Centcom stated Houthi rebels shot down an MQ-9 over Yemen utilizing an SA-6 surface-to-air missile in an assault that “was enabled by Iranian help.”

The newest incident got here simply days earlier than performing protection secretary Patrick Shanahan was as a result of step down. Shanahan, who this week withdrew from his affirmation course of after information media, together with The Washington Submit, revealed stories about previous household strife, is handing accountability for the army to Mark Esper, who now serves as Military secretary.

It’s unclear how the turnover on the prime of the Pentagon will have an effect on an inside debate about how to reply to what officers say is an try to strike American pursuits. Some protection officers have voiced considerations that officers led by nationwide safety adviser John Bolton, who has publicly advocated regime change in Iran prior to now, could also be creating circumstances by which warfare is inevitable.

Trump has beforehand approved focused strikes within the Center East, together with on government-controlled air bases in Syria. He was elected in 2016 promising to finish American involvement in conflicts within the area.

On the identical time, the Pentagon stays involved concerning the potential for Iranian assaults on U.S. army personnel, particularly these stationed in Iraq. Throughout a go to to Baghdad final month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to relay a message for Iranian leaders that even one American loss of life would lead to a U.S. counterattack.

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