US steps back from the brink of war with Iran

Despite his confused foreign policy, US President Donald Trump showed political maturity by calling off the military operation against Iran at the last minute early on Friday.

He realised that it was not a “proportionate” response to Iran’s downing of an unmanned drone in the Strait of Hormuz in the early hours of Thursday. He was willing to wait until Iran makes a bigger mistake to give it a befitting response.

Ignoring the barrage of questions he may face, the US commander in chief abruptly aborted the operation and stepped back from the brink of war to save the lives of Iranians.

His pull-back left US military and diplomatic officials divided and confused and political opponents mocked him for getting cold feet at the last moment.

Hours later, defending his decision, he said in an NBC interview to be aired on Sunday that more than 150 Iranians would have died in the Friday’s predawn airstrikes.

But he said Iran will face total destruction if it makes a bigger mistake.

Iran has to abandon its nuclear efforts or face economic hardship for a long time, he said.

Trump’s renewed threat to obliterate Iran comes as Tehran plans to increase the stockpile of its enriched uranium beyond the limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal from June 27.

The US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and started re-imposing sanctions on Iran.

Tehran has set a July 7 deadline for the other signatories of the nuclear deal — China, France, Britain, Russia and Germany — to uphold it.

Trump’s decision on Iran drew criticisms from the opposition. Although Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was relieved to see that the airstrikes did not happen, she said no military strike should henceforth be given the go-ahead without congressional approval.

 Others said Trump exposed his lack of clear action plan by tweeting why he changed his decision on Iran. His U-turn will only embolden Iran to take more risks, they added.

Four warnings ignored

While Trump and his team appeared confused on Thursday, Iran clearly explained the circumstances leading to the downing of the surveillance drone.

It said the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down the drone using a surface-to-air missile at 4.05am on Thursday after the aircraft violated Iran’s airspace.

Those controlling the drone were warned four times and all the warnings were ignored. Two warnings were issued at 2.05am and two more at 3.55 am, said IRGC’s aerospace commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh while presenting the drone’s wreckage to media.

The IRGC released the GPS coordinates that showed the drone was well within Iran’s territorial waters.

One more spy plane carrying a 35-member crew was flying near the drone. IRGC shot down only the unmanned drone, the general said.

Maybe, Trump knew Iran spared the lives of 35 US military personnel before he decided to call off Friday’s operation.

On Saturday, Trump appreciated Iran for its wise decision to not shoot down the manned plane.

Iran also ignored Trump’s explanation that he aborted the offensive to save Iranians’ lives.

A foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Iran is only concerned about the airspace violation by the US aircraft.