US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he aborted a military strike on Iran to spare the lives of 150 people.
Trump said the plan was to hit three sites in response to Iran’s downing of a US drone on Thursday, which Tehran said took place over its territory and which Washington said occurred in international airspace over the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
In a lengthy tweet, Trump said he pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which gave Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for pledges to rein in its nuclear program, because the agreement only temporarily blocked Iran from having nuclear weapons. Trump said the nuclear deal also did not stem Iran's support of militant groups or restrain its ballistic missile program.
He said his exit from the deal and the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran has crippled its economy.
"Now they are Bust!" Trump tweeted and then outlined his reasons for canceling the strikes.
"We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it."
He added that those deaths would not be a proportionate response to the downing of an unmanned drone.
"I am in no hurry," he said. "Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!"
The drone incident aggravated fears of a direct military clash between the longtime foes and oil prices rose more than 1%to above $65 per barrel on Friday due to worries about possible disruptions to crude exports from the Gulf.
In a sign that the United States is also open to diplomacy, Iranian sources told Reuters Trump had warned them that a US attack on Iran was imminent but had said he was against war and wanted talks. Washington also requested a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Monday.
White House national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CIA Director Gina Haspel, along with the rest of Trump's team, favored a retaliatory strike, said a senior Trump administration official.
Iran's destruction of the drone was the latest in an escalating series of incidents in the Gulf region, a critical artery for global oil supplies, since mid-May, including explosive strikes on six oil tankers.
Earlier on Friday, Iranian officials told Reuters that Tehran had received a message from Trump warning that a US attack on Iran was imminent but saying that he was against war and wanted talks on a range of issues.
News of that message, delivered through Oman overnight, came shortly after the New York Times reported that Trump had called off air strikes targeting Iranian radar and missile batteries at the last minute.
"In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues," one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.