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'Planes Were in the Air' When Iran Strike Called Off

Schumer warns US could be 'bumbling into war'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2019 6:55 AM CDT
'Planes Were in the Air' When Iran Strike Called Off
Outgoing acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan carries a document labeled secret as he arrives for a meeting with President Trump about Iran at the White House, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Newser) – A US strike on Iran in retaliation for the downing of a US drone was reportedly abruptly called off Thursday night—but it was a plan firmly in motion at the time, according to the New York Times. Senior administration officials tell the Times that "planes were in the air and ships were in position" when the strike was called off. The sources say the plan was to fire missiles at Iranian targets just before dawn local time to minimize the risk to civilians and military personnel. It's not clear whether the strike was called off for logistical reasons or because President Trump had a change of heart. In other developments:

  • FAA bans flights. The Federal Aviation Administration has banned US-registered aircraft from flying through Iranian airspace in the Persian Gulf, saying there is too much "potential for miscalculation or misidentification," CBS reports.

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  • Iran warned of imminent attack. Iranian officials tell Reuters that the US, using Oman as an intermediary, delivered the message late Thursday that an attack was imminent but the US preferred another route. "In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues," one Iranian official says. The officials say they conveyed that Supreme Leader Khamenei "is against any talks." The US and Iran disagree over whether the $130 million drone was in Iranian or US airspace when it was shot down.
  • "Bumbling into war." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of a bipartisan group of congressional leaders invited to the White House Thursday, says Congress needs to have a say, the Washington Post reports. "The president may not intend to go to war here, but we’re worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war," the Democrat says. "One of the best ways to avoid bumbling into war, a war that nobody wants, is to have a robust open debate and for Congress to have a real say. We learned that lesson in the run-up to Iraq in 2003."
  • International reaction. News that a strike had been called off was welcomed internationally, with a spokeswoman for Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel praising indications that Trump "would like to avoid a military confrontation." Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that a clash between the US and Iran could be a "catastrophe with unpredictable consequences," the BBC reports.
  • Administration hawks. The Times' sources say Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and CIA Director Gina Haspel argued in favor of a strike during talks Thursday, while Pentagon officials warned that the result could be a "spiraling escalation" likely to endanger US forces in the region.
(Trump said Thursday that the drone could have been shot down by a general who made a mistake.)

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