The New York Times and Newsweek have both reported that President Trump ordered retaliatory strikes against Iran for their downing of a Global Hawk drone over international airspace in the Persian Gulf. Trump confirmed this via Twitter, writing:
We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights [sic] when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!
On one hand, it is interesting that the strike was 10 minutes from occurring, with U.S. aircraft already in the air before the president fully understood the nature of the strikes he had authorized and called them off. The president’s National Security Council appears to have been in favor of the strikes, including Pompeo, Bolton, and Haspel. Trump’s rationale for calling off the attack makes sense, as we’ve lost drones before without taking lethal action against those who shot down or destroyed them.
In 2001 a manned EP-3 spy plane was forced to make an emergency landing after a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter jet. The plane and crew were taken prisoner by the Chinese government. This sparked an international incident, but cooler heads prevailed in the end. Launching an attack inside Iran that would kill 150 people would have been a disproportionate response to shooting down an unmanned drone in international airspace.
It’s also interesting that Trump appears to be surrounded by Iran war hawks in the White House. According to at least one report, it was Fox News host Tucker Carlson who talked the president out of the attack on Iran. Carlson has made the case against military intervention in the Middle East on his nightly news commentary show and apparently in private phone conversations with the president as well.