(June 21, 2019 / JNS) The United States was preparing on Thursday night to launch multiple retaliatory strikes against Iran for shooting down an American spy drone near the Strait of Hormuz, but abruptly stood down, according to anonymous senior administration officials.
An operation to attack a list of Iranian targets, including radar and missile batteries, was in its early stages as late as 7 p.m. amid intense debate and strategizing at the White House, the officials said.
Planes were scrambled and ships moved into position for an attack early Friday morning, but were ultimately told to cancel what would have been U.S. President Donald Trump’s third military action in the Middle East. The Trump administration struck targets in Syria in 2017 and 2018.
According to The New York Times, which cited anonymous senior administration officials, Trump called off the strikes.
White House and Pentagon officials had no comment.
On Thursday morning, an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down a $130 million U.S. surveillance drone. Iran claimed that the aircraft was in Iranian airspace at the time, but U.S. officials said it was above the Strait of Hormuz in international airspace when it was attacked.
According to The New York Times, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton and CIA director Gina Haspel supported a military response to the downing of the drone, but top Pentagon officials warned that an attack on Iran might endanger American forces in the region.
Congressional leaders were also briefed by administration officials in the White House Situation Room.