The New York Times reported Thursday evening that President Donald Trump ordered air and naval strikes against Iranian targets in response to the shooting down of a U.S. Navy drone earlier that day, but canceled them “abruptly.”
The Times reported:
President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.
The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.
It was 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.
The Times added a curious detail: “No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.”
Trump’s critics accused him of “cold feet.” But the fact that the administration did not try to stop the story also suggests it could have been leaked deliberately. Indeed, at least one other reporter claimed he had received similar information:
— Jim LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) June 21, 2019
Trump tweeted Thursday morning that “Iran made a very big mistake!”, but later suggested that the “mistake” may have simply been an accident. In the double meaning of the word “mistake,” he preserved both the threat of retaliation and the possibility of a diplomatic solution.
Regardless, Iran will know how close it was to being attacked, and still is.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.