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22 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Trump says in ‘no hurry’ for Iran strikes

‘Strike on Iran called off with 10 minutes left’
AFP, Washington
Trump says in ‘no hurry’ for Iran strikes
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh (C), Iran's Head of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division, speaks to media next to debris from a downed US drone reportedly recovered within Iran's territorial waters and put on display by the Revolutionary Guard in the capital Tehran yesterday. AFP Photo

US President Donald Trump yesterday said he is in "no hurry" to bomb Iran, revealing that US forces were "cocked and loaded" to retaliate after the downing of a US spy drone but that he called them back in order to avoid mass casualties.

"I am in no hurry," Trump said in a series of tweets detailing his thought process during the late Thursday decision to send, and then recall, US forces. "10 minutes before the strike I stopped it," the president said, explaining that a general had told him to expect 150 deaths on the Iranian side and that he had concluded this would not be a "proportionate" response.

Trump said the Pentagon had selected three sites in Iran for bombing. The revelations by Trump were highly unusual for a president and they gave new insight into the long-running internal debate at the White House over its Middle East policy.

Trump campaigned for the presidency on a platform of extricating the United States from military quagmires. However, some of his closest advisers, such as national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are said to favor a far more muscular US strategy.

Trump has labeled Iran a danger and has sought to wreck a complex international accord on rewarding the country for allowing verification of its nuclear industry, primarily by unilaterally withdrawing from the deal.

At the same time, Trump has repeatedly sought to downplay moments of tension, repeating his reluctance to see the dispute escalate to military conflict. That volatile situation came to a head this week when Iran shot down a large US surveillance drone.

Tehran says the drone had entered its airspace, while Washington says it was in international waters. Iran vowed yesterday to defend its borders after downing a US drone it insisted had violated the country's airspace.

The downing of the drone -- which Washington insists was above international waters but Iran says was within its airspace -- has seen tensions between the two countries spike further after a series of attacks on tankers the US has blamed on Tehran.

The commander of the aerospace arm of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said the drone was warned twice before it was downed over the Gulf of Oman. "This aircraft possesses a system which allows it to relay the signals and information it receives to its own central system," Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh told state television. Just hours before his aborted bombing strike yesterday, Trump warned that Iran had made "a big mistake" -- only to quickly add that he thought the drone downing may have been unintentional.

However, later the US president tweeted: "I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth."

Following the president's mixed message, the US special representative on Iran, Brian Hook, called Friday for diplomacy.

"Our diplomacy does not give Iran the right to respond with military force," he told reporters in Saudi Arabia. "Iran needs to meet diplomacy with diplomacy, not military force."

Oil prices edged down slightly Friday following the previous day's surge that saw prices soar more than six percent, while the price of gold -- seen as a safe haven asset -- struck near six-year highs.

Iran said it had called in the Swiss ambassador, whose country has represented US interests since the severance of diplomatic relations in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979, to issue a formal protest.

Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi provided the ambassador with "indisputable" evidence the drone had violated Iranian airspace, the foreign ministry said.

Araghchi "reiterated that Iran does not seek a war and conflict in the Persian Gulf", but warned: "The Islamic Republic of Iran would not hesitate for a moment to decisively defend its territory against any aggression."

Iranian television later broadcast images of what it said was "debris" of the downed drone recovered from Iran's territorial waters.

"The debris was floating. We recovered it from the sea inside our territorial waters," a general said.

Meanwhile, some of the world's leading carriers including British Airways, Qantas and Singapore Airlines on Friday suspended flights over the Strait of Hormuz, as Iran-US tensions flare over the downing of a drone.

The suspensions will affect many thousands of passengers and came after the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), "prohibiting US-registered aircraft from operating over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman".

The NOTAM was in response to "heightened military activities and increased political tensions that might place commercial flights at risk", an FAA statement said, as Tehran and Washington engaged in a war of words over Thursday's missile strike on the drone.

The FAA's notice applies only to US-registered airlines, and United Airlines said it was suspending its Newark-Mumbai service in response. But European and Asian operators were taking no chances.

"Our safety and security team are constantly liaising with authorities -- including the likes of the FAA -- around the world as part of their comprehensive risk assessment into every route we operate," a BA spokeswoman said.

Germany's Lufthansa and Dutch airline KLM followed suit in bypassing the Hormuz area, although Air France said it was already flying further south. Dubai-based Emirates said it had rerouted flights to avoid "areas of possible conflict".



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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