WASHINGTON — The United States set in motion an attack against Iran Thursday night, then halted the operation in part to accommodate concerns of allies and to try to start talks with Tehran, Pentagon officials and others said.
On Thursday, Pentagon officials — speaking on background — advised reporters to remain in the building until roughly 9 p.m. EDT because “something may happen,” as one said. That time frame, from 5 to 9 p.m. EDT, corresponds with early morning in Iran, when any strike would be timed to minimize civilian casualties.
One official told TMN on Thursday that a strike would likely focus first on radar facilities that are used to track U.S. surveillant drones, then the missile battery that fired and downed a drone on Thursday.
The mission was called off around 7:30 p.m. EDT, according to reports. It went underway after a day of mixed signals emanating from the White House.
Early Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump downplayed the downing of the drone. He noted that it was unmanned and that shooting it down could have been a mistake by someone in the Iranian military.
“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said at the White House. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”
However, after a briefing for congressional leaders in the White House situation room, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said there would be a “measured response” forthcoming against Iran.
As tensions keep rising in the region British Airways and United Airline announced they are diverting or canceling flights that use air space in and around the Persian Gulf and Iran, according to news reports.
Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday issued an emergency order prohibiting U.S. operators from flying in an overwater area of Iran-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman due to heightened tensions.
The New York Times was the first to report that Trump had approved the strikes Thursday night, but then called them off. The newspaper cited anonymous senior administration officials.
The drone that was downed by Iran earlier on Thursday was an advanced, next-generation prototype costing around $200 million, one of four the Navy had in its arsenal, Pentagon officials said on background. Known as a Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator, or BAMS-D, drone, it is roughly the size of a 737 aircraft.