According to the New York Times, on Thursday US President Donald Trump had authorized military strikes against Iran but these were called off by officials just a few hours later.
US planes, ships and other military assets were already in place waiting to target various Iranian assets but the attack was called off before any missiles were launched.
It was unclear why the attacks had been canceled; if this was a change of mind by President Trump or if there was some kind of military tactic that led to the strikes being delayed. It is still not clear if there will be any future strikes.
On his Twitter account on Friday, President Trump stated that the military had indeed been ready to launch attacks on Iran. He also claimed that he stopped the drone attack when he became concerned about the risk of civilian casualties.
However, in an interview later that day he said he had not given the green light to any kind of military action in the area because, he said, ‘things change’. On the NBC show, ‘Meet the Press’, President Trump said that the planes had not been airborne but that the launch was imminent and that they were very close to the point where there would have been no turning back.
There has been no official comment from The White House.
Any approval of military action in the region would have certainly meant an increase in tensions in the region, making relations between Washington and Tehran even more strained,
It is reported that US intelligence is currently looking into how they can best respond to the increasing tensions between the US and Iran. These tensions rose to boiling point when Iran shot down an American spy drone on Thursday as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz. The US President was adamant that the drone had not entered Iranian airspace, a statement contradicted by Tehran.
After a statement by Donald Trump on June 20th, in which he said, 'Iran made a very big mistake', the world was braced against the likelihood of direct military action. This did not materialize. It is likely that any US action in the area will increase the strain in the region.
Just last week the US accused Iran of attacking two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. This was denied by Iran and other countries demanded that the US provide more evidence to support these claims. The USA claims that the attacks are part of Iran’s attempts to control strategic shipping lanes in the area. The attack on the tankers followed an announcement by Iran earlier that week that they had increased stockpiles of uranium, bringing them over the limit allowed in a 2015 deal designed to curb their nuclear program.
The pressure in the region has increased since Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. This was a hard won pact and was popular with many world leaders including, until last year, the USA. However, President Trump pulled out, condemning the plan as defective. Since then the country has imposed strict sanctions against Iran.
This latest report is likely to mean increased tensions within Congress where there is currently a popular move towards ensuring any military action must be approved by Congress. According to the House Speaker, the situation in the area is ‘dangerous’.