Just hours after he brought the United States to the brink of war Thursday night by approving a military strike against Iran, President Donald Trump abruptly called off the attack before any missiles were fired.
"The place we have arrived at tonight on Iran is Donald Trump's choice. He chose escalation over diplomacy, without any idea how to get out of the downward spiral he set in motion."
—Sen. Chris Murphy
That's according to the New York Times, which reported that as late as 7 pm Thursday, "military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president's top national security officials and congressional leaders."
"The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off," the Times reported. "Planes were in the air and ships were in position."
Iranian officials told Reuters Friday that Tehran received a message from Trump "through Oman overnight warning that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent."
Citing anonymous senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the plan to attack Iran, the Times reported that it is "not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward."
Trump confirmed in a series of tweets Friday morning that he ordered the strikes and then called them off:
....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....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
The military strike—which was approved after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone that it said violated its airspace—was reportedly backed by national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA director Gina Haspel, a team critics have described as the president's "war cabinet."
According to the Times, Trump "initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries."
This ought to put an end to dismissal of a US war of choice with Iran as too idiotic to happen, and an end to the idea that if it did happen it would be an "accident," as opposed to immoral madness. Join us#NoWarWithIran https://t.co/Bcieb0uN1c
— Ploughshares Fund (@plough_shares) June 21, 2019
The Times' reporting, later confirmed by ABC News and other outlets, was met with alarm by lawmakers and anti-war critics who have been warning for months that the Trump administration's belligerence towards Iran could lead to an all-out military conflict.
"Since day one of the Trump administration it has been clear that this is where we were heading," tweeted Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War. "A completely reckless foreign policy in which decisions are based on personal vengeance and zero regard for consequences. A team of advisors obsessed with going to war [with] Iran."
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in response to the Times report that the "place we have arrived at tonight on Iran is Donald Trump's choice."
"He chose escalation over diplomacy," Murphy tweeted, "without any idea how to get out of the downward spiral he set in motion."
The place we have arrived at tonight on Iran is Donald Trump’s choice. He chose escalation over diplomacy, without any idea how to get out of the downward spiral he set in motion.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 21, 2019
Trump's reported approval of military strikes against Iran came after hours of growing tensions, with the president telling reporters they would "soon find out" whether his administration plans to attack Iran following the downing of a U.S. surveillance aircraft.
Iran said the drone violated its airspace and accused U.S. officials of ignoring "repeated radio warnings."
After American military officials claimed the drone was in international airspace when Iran shot it down, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the "U.S. is lying."
At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace. It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25°59'43"N 57°02'25"E) near Kouh-e Mobarak.
We've retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down. pic.twitter.com/pJ34Tysmsg
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 20, 2019
With the U.S. once more on the precipice of an unauthorized war, The Nation's John Nichols asked, "Where is the Congress?"
"Decisions about war and peace should not be left to the whims of a president who is ill-prepared, ill-informed, and ill-advised," Nichols wrote.
In a series of tweets late Thursday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—who has been an outspoken opponent of military action against Iran—urged Americans to pressure their representatives to stop a potentially catastrophic war.
And I urge the American people to make your voice heard. Organize. Call your member of Congress.
Let all our leaders know that a war with Iran would be a catastrophe. #NoWarOnIran
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 21, 2019
Omar went on to address Trump directly, writing, "As a survivor of war, I want to tell you: going to war does not make you strong. It makes you weak."
"Sending teenagers to die, or return with lifelong wounds seen and unseen, does not make you a bigger person. It makes you smaller," Omar wrote. "I have seen firsthand the effects of war. Even in the best of cases, it never has the outcome you expect. War is death, displacement, and terror. War is hell."