October 19, 2019

Trump Called Off Iran Strikes

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands by in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets on June 21 that he called off strikes against Iran at the last second because he wanted to avoid collateral damage.

Trump explained in the tweets that the Pentagon was “cocked and loaded” to strike Iran, but he decided to back off when he was told that the strikes would result in 150 dead. Trump added that he was “in no hurry” to take military action against Iran since his administration’s sanctions against Iran are crippling the regime.

Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that his generals didn’t immediately have the details on collateral damage from the strikes available when he asked for it.

A Trump administration official told Reuters that the strikes would have targeted Iranian radars and missile batteries, among others. The official also said that the administration urged the Iranians in a message through Oman to come to the negotiating table or else face strikes.

Tensions have been escalating between the United States and Iran, as highlighted by the recent attacks against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and Iran shooting down an unmanned U.S. drone on Thursday. A senior Republican source on Capitol Hill told CNN, “Historically we have seen what happens when the US issues red lines and then fails to enforce them. Failing to take action could be far more dangerous in the long run.”

Bloomberg national security columnist Eli Lake noted in a June 20 Op-ed that among the U.S.’s options include authorizing strikes against Iranian commanders throughout the Middle East or against Iran’s naval facilities; the U.S. could also engage in cyberwarfare against Iran as a method of deterrence.

American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin argued that the Iranian regime could be on its last legs given the country’s languishing economy under the sanctions and the regime leaders getting older. The regime is unpopular inside Iran, but Rubin warned that the country’s civilians are “fiercely nationalistic,” which the Trump administration should keep in mind going forward.

“It is essential to maintain the pressure on Iran without playing into the hands of a regime that may want conflict,” Rubin wrote. “Let’s hope President Donald Trump is wise enough to allow his ‘maximum pressure campaign’ to work without giving authorities in Tehran either a diplomatic out or resorting to military force that will backfire in the long-term.”