Moon of Alabama — June 21, 2019
Last night U.S President Trump allegedly pulled back from a military strike against Iran after it had already been ordered.
That is the official story but there are doubts that it is true. The Iranian campaign of “maximum pressure” against Trump’s sanctions is still on. But there are first signs that it is successful.
The New York Times headlines: Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back
WASHINGTON — 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.
As late as 7 p.m., 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, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.
Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.
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.
The NYT story blames the hawks in the Trump administration, Bolton, Pompeo and CIA torture queen Gina Haspel, for arguing for a strike. The Pentagon and some congressional leaders are said to have been against it. The NYT report includes this curious paragraph:
Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials. No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.
The Associated Press has a similar story: US prepped for strikes on Iran before approval was withdrawn. The Washington Post and ABCNews also report along the same line. The White House is clearly pushing this version of the story.
But not everyone is buying the claim of a planned attack that was called back. Jeffrey Lewis, a scholar on international conflicts, remarks:
Jeffrey Lewis @ArmsControlWonk – 3:43 UTC – 21 Jun 2019
I don’t buy this. Trump’s team is trying to have it both ways — acting restrained but talking tough. This is pretty much what Nixon did in 1969, too. Why not just admit that sometimes restraint is smart?
The @nytimes ran the same story Nixon in 1969. 路♂️ Nixon was not going to retaliate but he wanted people to think he almost did — and the Gray Lady obliged. —> Aides Say Nixon Weighed Swift Korea Reprisal
Elijah Magnier, a journalist with excellent sources in Tehran, also rejects the NYT claim. Pointing to the NYT story he remarks:
Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai – 4:02 UTC – 21 Jun 2019
This is highly inaccurate and Iran “knew” about it yesterday: the US administration whispered this info for Trump to save his face.
I hinted to this info yesterday before it was released this morning by the US media. Iran – sources – rejected the “war-theatre scenario”. More details this evening.
Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai – 19:41 UTC – 20 Jun 2019
I have very valuable information on US intel sending a message to the Iranians to agree on a certain scenario to happen.
This and much more information will force me to write an article tomorrow (hopefully) on #Iran and #US crisis.
After the drone shoot down the price of oil jumped 10%. Trump will have noticed that. He was also already warned by Iran that there is no room for talks and that any strike against it would have deadly consequences:
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian officials told Reuters on Friday that Tehran had received a message from U.S. President Donald Trump through Oman overnight warning that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent.
The second official said: “We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision … However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.”
The whole storyline of “a strike was ordered but Trump held back and saved the day” might well be fake.
When Trump spoke to the press yesterday afternoon he was already playing down the Iranian downing of a U.S. Global Hawk drone. As we wrote in the update to yesterday’s drone story:
Trump just held a press conference in the Oval Office. He seemed to play down (vid) the event. He empathized that the drone was unmanned. He said he had “a big, big feeling” that “someone made a mistake”, that “some Iranian general probably made a mistake”. That means that he does not accuse the government of Iran of the shoot down, but some lowly grunt who “might have made a mistake.”
That statement gives him room to avoid a large retaliation.
A strike in retaliation for the downed drone may have never been on the table. An alternative interpretation is that the U.S. sought agreement for a symbolic ‘strike’ from Iran. It would hit some empty desert place to allow Trump to save face. Iran would have disagreed with that plan.
But there are also signs that some strike was really in preparation: