• Trump says US was 'loaded to retaliate' after Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down drone

    By: Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    President Donald Trump approved of a military strike against Iran on Thursday night before pulling back amid heightened tension between the two countries.

    Trump said Thursday that “Iran made a big mistake” when the country’s Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. drone Wednesday.

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    Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani, the state’s first Iranian-American lawmaker,  issued a statement on Twitter Friday in response to Trump’s actions regarding Iran:

    Officials with U.S. Central Command said the drone was shot down in an “unprovoked attack” as it flew over international waters. Iranian officials claimed the drone was actually in the country’s airspace when it was shot down.

    Here are the latest updates:

    Update 3:45 p.m. EDT June 21: Two unidentified diplomats told The Associated Press that the U.S. requested a close Security Council meeting Friday to discuss developments regarding Iran and the recent tanker incidents.

    Citing “two well-informed diplomats,” the AP reported the requested closed consultations were likely to take place Monday.

    The request came after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone that Iranian officials claimed violated the country’s airspace. Officials in the U.S. have said the drone was actually over international waters, calling the incident an “unprovoked attack.”

    President Donald Trump said he approved of a military strike against Iran in retaliation for Wednesday’s incident, although he said he called off the plan with 10 minutes to spare after learning that 150 civilians were expected to die in the strike.

    The United States has also blamed Iran for using mines in the latest attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf — which Tehran denies.

    Update 1:45 p.m. EDT June 21: Trump told NBC News on Friday that he never gave final approval for a military strike against Iran before abruptly reversing course Thursday night.

    He said in an interview for “Meet the Press” that no planes were in the air when he cancelled the order, “but they would have been pretty soon.”

    “We had something ready to go, subject to my approval,” Trump told NBC News.

    He said he changed his mind about the strike after asking how many people were expected to die as a result of it.

    “I thought, ‘You know what, they shot down an unmanned drone -- plane, whatever you want to call it  -- and here we are sitting with 150 dead people ,’” the president said.

    Update 10:15 a.m. EDT June 21: The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division said a manned U.S. spy plane was near the drone shot down by authorities Wednesday night, but he said Iran chose not to target it, according to The Associated Press

    Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said at a news conference Friday that officials saw “another spy aircraft called a P-8” flying near the drone that was shot down Wednesday night, the AP reported. He said the aircraft carried 35 crew members.

    “Well, we could have targeted that plane, it was our right to do so, and yes it was American, but we didn’t do it,” he said, according to the AP. “We hit the unmanned aircraft.”

    An unidentified U.S. official confirmed to CNN that a P-8 surveillance aircraft was operating in the same area as the drone Wednesday night. Citing the U.S. Navy, the news network reported the aircraft was configured to carry a crew of 9 people, not 35. 

    Update 9:15 a.m. EDT June 21: In a series of Twitter posts Friday morning, Trump said he rescinded approval for a military strike against Iran 10 minutes before it was set to begin.

    “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump said. “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.”

    Update 7:10 a.m. EDT June 21: Iran claimed Friday it issued several warnings before shooting down a drone over what it claimed was Iranian air space, The Associated Press reported. The move heightened tensions between Iran and the United States, and according to a New York Times report, President Donald Trump approved military strikes before calling them off late Thursday. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the AP that targets would have included radars and missile batteries.

    Update 3:54 a.m. EDT June 21: According to The New York Times, it was unclear whether President Donald Trump, who approved military strikes against Iran but then pulled back from launching them late Wednesday, changed his mind about the attack, or whether logistics or strategy were involved. It also was unclear whether attacks would be launched at a future date, the newspaper reported. 

    The administration did not make a formal announcement about military strikes, The Washington Post reported. There was no reaction from Iran, the newspaper reported.

    Update 11 p.m. EDT June 20: The New York Times said that President Donald Trump approved military strikes against Iran but pulled back from launching them Thursday night.

    Officials told The Times that he had approved targets including radar and missile sites. The operation was reportedly underway when an order came to stand down.

    Update 6 p.m. EDT June 20: The Department of Defense has released the flight path of the drone before it was shot down. 

    Update 3:10 p.m. EDT June 20: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif provided a brief timeline Thursday of the events prompted officials to shoot down a U.S. drone that Iranian officials claimed had been spotted in the country’s airspace.

    U.S. officials disputed the claim, saying the drone was actually over international waters when Iran shot it down in what U.S. Central Command called an “unprovoked attack.”

    Zarif said Iran shot down the American drone “near Kouh-e Mobarak.”

    “We’ve retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down,” he said.

    In an earlier statement, Zarif warned, “We don’t seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters.”

    Update 2:50 p.m. EDT June 20: President Donald Trump will hold a briefing Thursday afternoon to discuss tensions with Iran with leaders of the House and Senate, The Associated Press reported, citing two unidentified sources.

    Top members of the House and Senate intelligence and Armed Services committees were also invited to attend the meeting, according to the AP.

    Update 12:35 p.m. EDT June 20: President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he believes “someone made a mistake” Wednesday when Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. drone over international waters.

    Trump said he had “a big, big feeling” someone made a mistake, according to White House pool reports.

    “We didn’t have a man or woman in the drone,” Trump said. “It would have made a big, big difference.”

    He declined to say whether the U.S. will retaliate against Iran.

    Update 12:20 p.m. EDT June 20: Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander of U.S. Air Force Central Command, said in a news briefing Thursday that the drone shot down Wednesday by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was over international waters off the coast of Iran when the incident happened.

    The drone was conducting surveillance when the incident happened, Guastella said, calling it an “unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time.”

    He added that the decision to shoot down the drone was “irresponsible,” due to the drone’s vicinity to established air travel lanes.

    "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," Guastella said.

    Update 10:20 a.m. EDT June 20: In a tweet posted Thursday morning, President Donald Trump responded to reports that Iran shot down a U.S. drone Wednesday night.

    “Iran made a very big mistake!” the president wrote.

    Earlier Thursday, U.S. Central Command confirmed in a statement that Iranian forces shot down a U.S. drone, an RQ-4 Global Hawk, in what officials called an “unprovoked attack” in international airspace. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it shot down the drone over Iranian airspace.

    Update 7:48 a.m. EDT June 20: U.S. Central Command is confirming that Iran shot down a U.S. drone.

    In a statement released Thursday morning, officials announced that "a U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (or BAMS-D) ISR aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in an international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019."

    The statement said Iran's claims that the drone was in Iranian airspace "are false."

    "This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace," the statement read.

    Officials said the drone was a RQ-4A Global Hawk High-Altitude, Long, Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).

    Update 5:32 a.m. EDT June 20: Although Iran state media said the Guard shot down the drone over Iranian airspace, two unidentified U.S. officials told the AP that the incident occurred in international airspace.

    Iranian state media reported that the drone was an RQ-4 Global Hawk, but a similar-looking drone, the MQ-4C Triton, also exists, according to the AP.

    The U.S. officials interviewed did not identify the type of drone or say why it was in the area, the AP reported.

    Original report: Iran’s news agency, Fars News, is claiming that a U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk drone has been shot down over Iran’s Hormuzgan province.

    The U.S. military has declined to comment, according to the Associated Press.

    Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, declined to comment when asked if an American drone was shot down.

    However, he told The Associated Press: “There was no drone over Iranian territory.”

    The reported shoot down comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. It takes root in President Donald Trump’s decision a year ago to withdraw America from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

    The unmanned aircraft that Fars News claimed they shot down is a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft. With a wingspan of around 130 feet, the Global Hawk is one of the largest remotely piloted surveillance aircraft in use by the United States military.

    The aircraft has a range of 12,300 nautical miles and can remain in flight for up to 34 hours.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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