President Trump approved a U.S. military strike against targets inside Iran in retaliation for Iran's downing of a $130 million American surveillance drone, but the operation, already underway in its early stages, was abruptly called off Thursday night, The New York Times reports, citing senior administration officials. Planes were in the air and ships in position to strike a handful of targets, like radar installations and missile batteries, before dawn on Friday to minimize the risk of casualties.
It's not clear whether Trump "changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy," the Times reports. "It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward." Trump's advisers are split on whether to strike Iran and risk escalating a growing conflict — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and CIA Director Gina Haspel are in favor, while top Pentagon officials urged restraint, the Times says. After congressional leaders were briefed on the attack plans, Democrats urged Trump to de-escalate the situation and get congressional approval before taking military action.
Iran shot down a RQ-4 Global Hawk drone early Thursday with a surface-to-air missile, claiming it had crossed into Iranian airspace. The U.S. says it was in international airspace over the Gulf of Oman. Both sides produced evidence to bolster their claim. "Iran's ability to target and destroy the high-altitude American drone, which was developed to evade the very surface-to-air missiles used to bring it down, surprised some Defense Department officials, who interpreted it as a show of how difficult Tehran can make things for the United States as it deploys more troops and steps up surveillance in the region," the Times reports.
The White House and Pentagon declined to comment the Times but did not ask the newspaper to withhold the article.