President Trump responded to multiple reports about an eleventh-hour cancellation of a U.S. strike against Iran, tweeting early Friday the U.S. was “cocked and loaded” but he decided to call off the move when he was told 150 people would be killed in the strike.
The news follows the downing of a U.S. drone by Iran earlier this week.
In a series of morning tweets Friday, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama for the festering situation with Iran before detailing the decision-making behind his call to step back from retaliatory strikes.
"President Obama made a desperate and terrible deal with Iran - Gave them 150 Billion Dollars plus I.8 Billion Dollars in CASH! Iran was in big trouble and he bailed them out. Gave them a free path to Nuclear Weapons, and SOON. Instead of saying thank you, Iran yelled.....Death to America. I terminated deal, which was not even ratified by Congress, and imposed strong sanctions. They are a much weakened nation today than at the beginning of my Presidency, when they were causing major problems throughout the Middle East. Now they are Bust!" Trump claimed in a tweet.
"On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. 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, not....proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!" he continued.
Retaliatory strikes against Iran had been tied up in response to the Navy drone being shot out of the sky Thursday over the Strait of Hormuz — what Washington said was international airspace, a source told Fox News.
A source had confirmed to Fox News earlier Friday the administration made a last-minute decision to call off the retaliatory strikes against Iran. But until Trump's tweets, few details about the aborted mission and the circumstances that led to the reversal were publicly available. And it remained unclear whether strike plans had been definitively shelved.
Multiple news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press, had reported similar accounts of strikes being called off late Thursday — citing unnamed sources. These reports portray a mission that would have targeted Iranian missile batteries and radars.
U.S. stocks traded lower on Friday, the day after the S&P 500 closed at a record high, amid the Iran developments. U.S. crude futures were higher by 0.4 percent to $57.33 while the yield on the 10-year Treasury edged up slightly to 2.03 percent.
"Nothing was greenlighted until the very end because things change," the president said in a Friday interview with NBC.
Trump said planes had not yet been put into the air as part of the mission but claimed "they would have been pretty soon."
"And things would have happened to a point where you would not turn back, you could not turn back. So, they came and they said: 'Sir, we are ready to go, we would like a decision.' And I said: 'I want to know something before you go. How many people would be killed, in this case, Iranians?' I said: 'how many people are going to be killed?' Sir I would like to get back to you on that. Great people these generals. They said, uh, they came back and said, 'Sir, approximately 150.' And I thought about it for a second and I said, you know what, they shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it, and here we are sitting with a 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t think, I didn’t think it was proportionate."
A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged calm, emphasizing a reduction in tensions.
"The Secretary-General’s message to all the parties involved is to avoid anything that will escalate the situation further and, as he put it, 'to have nerves of steel,'" Stephane Dujarric said.
Fox News' Edmund DeMarche and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.