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Trump Orders Military Strike on Iran but Pulls Back at the Last Minute

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump ordered a military strike on Iran last night. But while the plan was still in its early stages, he pulled back and canceled the attack.

All this happened after a day of growing tensions with the Iranian regime, beginning with the shoot-down of a US surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf.

With planes in the air and ships in position, the president called off the strike targeting radar and missile sites. It's not clear if the president stopped the attacks because he changed his mind or due to logistical and strategic reasons.

All this was in response to Iran's downing of the US drone and its alleged recent bombing of oil tankers near a strategic oil shipping lane called the Strait of Hormuz.

"They made a very big mistake," the president said.

Iranian officials say the drone was hovering in their airspace when they used surface-to-air missiles to shoot it down.

But during a Pentagon briefing, the head of the US Air Forces Central Command said that’s not true.

"This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian air space at any time during its mission," said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander, US Air Forces Central Command, Southwest Asia. 

"This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and the free flow of commerce," he continued.

Iran’s ambassador to the UN tells NPR it tried to contact the drone, but, "Since it was a spy drone, we were left with no other option."

US military leaders say the drone was over the Strait of Hormuz in international airspace. 

The shoot-down follows a string of incidents in recent weeks, including attacks on six commercial ships in the region – Iran suspected in all of them – along with reports that Iranian proxies were loading missiles onto boats within range of US Naval assets, and other threats.

All these events happened in response to US-led sanctions against Iran after the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Lawmakers are split on what the next move should be. Some urge caution – others just the opposite.

"We're worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

"The only way Iran changes its behavior is if they believe America will put options on the table that would create pain for the regime," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Iran did claim responsibility for shooting down the US drone – the head of the Revolutionary Guard saying the Islamic regime doesn’t want armed conflict, but it’s ready for war.

Meanwhile, the FAA has stopped US commercial air traffic from flying over Iran because of safety concerns. That affects flights over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The ban is in effect until further notice.

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