WASHINGTON (CN) – In a Twitter blast Friday morning, President Donald Trump said he called off military strikes against Iran because the 150 estimated civilian deaths would not be a proportionate response to a U.S. surveillance drone being shot down.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said the drone was flying in Iranian airspace after it was shot down Thursday morning with a surface-to-air missile.
U.S. Central Command said the drone was flying in international waters and called it an “unprovoked attack.” The incident marks a further escalation of tensions between the two countries.
The command to stand down, Trump said, came just 10 minutes before the planned strikes Thursday night as U.S. forces were positioned to carry out his orders.
“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,” Trump tweeted Friday.
Administration officials said the president approved strikes against Iranian missile batteries and radar stations before rescinding the order, first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by other media outlets.
“Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down,” the Times reported.
The attack was reportedly set to occur just before dawn in order to minimize Iranian military and civilian deaths.
On Thursday, President Trump said he believed the drone incident could have been carried out by a rogue individual within Iran’s military forces.
“I’m not just talking about the country made a mistake,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I’m talking about somebody under the command of that country made a mistake.”
Administration officials and congressional leaders spent Thursday discussing the possible strike, according to officials involved in the discussions. The shooting down of the drone has only heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. Last year, Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 agreement to loosen sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program.
Democrats who attended a classified briefing in the Situation Room on Thursday asked the president to first ask Congress to authorize any attacks on Iran.
“This is a dangerous situation,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said. “We are dealing with a country that is a bad actor in the region. We have no illusions about Iran in terms of their ballistic missile transfers, about who they support in the region and the rest.”