Photo Credit: DoD photo
Tomahawk cruise missile launches from the USS Shiloh in the Persian Gulf.

President Trump on Thursday approved military strikes against Iran following its shooting down of a $130 million US surveillance drone (other estimates put the drone’s value at $220 million), but pulled back on Thursday night, the NY Times reported.

According to the report, US officials were ready for a strike against several Islamic Republic targets, such as radar and missile batteries “as late as 7 PM” Thursday, and the operation was already in its early stages of a launch when it was suddenly called off.

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The attack was set for early dawn Friday, Iran time, to lower the risk to Iranian military personnel and to civilians.

The aborted mission would have been President Trump’s third attack on targets in the Middle East, following US strikes in Syria in 2017 and 2018.

The president’s national security advisers were apparently split over a military response for the downing of the drone. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security adviser John Bolton and CIA Director Gina Haspel were for a strike; but top Pentagon officials pointed out the risk of a spiraling escalation that could have global consequences.

Congressional leaders were briefed in the Situation Room. When they came out, Congressional Democrats urged the president to ask Congress for authorization for military action.

“This is a dangerous situation,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) said. “We are dealing with a country that is a bad actor in the region. We have no illusions about Iran in terms of their ballistic missile transfers, about who they support in the region and the rest.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Republican-led Senate voted to block the sale of billions of dollars of munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in sharp rebuke of the administration’s citing the Iran emergency as an excuse to circumvent Congress in allowing the exports.

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