President Trump stepped away from the precipice of an immediate military conflict with Iran on Friday, calling off a strike in response to Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone.
But with the United States and Iran still locked in an adversarial pose, with none of their underlying grievances resolved, the prospect for fresh brinkmanship loomed as U.S. officials contemplated an alternative response.
Key Trump allies on Capitol Hill said Friday that they expected the president to order a “non-kinetic” measure, suggesting economic sanctions or some other nonmilitary punishment for Iran’s destroying the aircraft.
Meanwhile, Iran has accused the United States of committing “economic terrorism” by imposing rounds of sanctions that are strangling its economy — raising the prospects of more attacks on oil tankers or U.S. assets in the region.
The precariousness of the moment was compounded by widespread uncertainty about the president’s decision-making process, which he detailed Friday in tweets and statements that drew scrutiny from even his own aides.
Early in the day, the president said he called off the attack at the last minute because it would have killed 150 people in retaliation for the downing of the drone. “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” he tweeted.
But administration officials said Trump was told earlier Thursday how many casualties could occur if a strike on Iran were carried out and that he had given the green light that morning to prepare the operation.
The confusion reinforced concerns about the Trump administration’s credibility at a time of military crisis. [Continue reading…]
Let me add another point on this:
Is President Trump saying he first authorized the strike without previously assessing the scale of casualties? That would presumably be illegal. https://t.co/MYjrBLJVLx
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) June 21, 2019