Iran defiant over drone as Trump reportedly halts retaliatory strikes

Iranian officials said Teheran had received a message from US President Donald Trump through Oman overnight that warned a US attack on Iran was imminent.
Iranian officials said Teheran had received a message from US President Donald Trump through Oman overnight that warned a US attack on Iran was imminent.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (REUTERS) – Iranian officials told Reuters on Friday (June 21) that Teheran had received a message from US President Donald Trump through Oman overnight warning that a US attack on Iran was imminent. 

They spoke shortly after the New York Times reported that Trump had approved military strikes against Iran on Friday in retaliation for the downing of a US  surveillance drone, but called off the attacks at the last minute

“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Teheran about various issues...He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei to decide about this issue,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

A second Iranian 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.”

After weeks of rising tension amid a spate of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran said on Thursday it had shot down an unmanned US military surveillance drone, fanning fears of an overt military confrontation between the longtime adversaries. 

Iranian state television on Friday showed what it said were retrieved sections of the US military drone it brought down. Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, said on the programme that the debris was proof that the drone had been over Iranian territorial waters when it was shot down by the Guards.

The Fars news agency said on Friday Iran has told the United States via the Swiss ambassador that Washington will be responsible for the consequences of any military action against Iran. 

 
 
 
 

Because Washington and Teheran have no formal diplomatic ties, the Swiss ambassador in Teheran represents American interests in the Islamic Republic. The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that Iran’s foreign ministry, which summoned the ambassador, had told the envoy that Iran was not pursuing war with the United States.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday urged all sides to show restraint in the situation around Iran and said Moscow was concerned about rising tensions between Washington and Teheran.

The United States envoy on Iran said afterwards it was “important we do everything” to de-escalate tensions with Iran. “Our diplomacy does not give Iran the right to respond with military force, Iran needs to meet our diplomacy with diplomacy and not military force,” he told a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh. 

Britain said it is in regular contact with the United States over the situation and has continuously called for de-escalation on all sides, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday.

“We have said continuously that we are calling for de-escalation on all sides and have long made clear our issues with Iran’s activity,” the spokesman added. 

The New Times had quoted a senior administration official as saying, US warplanes took to the air and ships were put in position for a retaliatory attack only for an order to come to stand down, without any weapons being fired. 

Targets had included Iranian radar and missile batteries, the paper cited senior administration officials involved in, or briefed on, the deliberations, as saying. 

The strikes were set for early in the day to minimise risk to the Iranian military or to civilians, the Times added. 

It was unclear if attacks on Iran might go ahead later, it added, nor was it known whether Trump had changed his mind or whether his administration had become concerned about logistics or strategy.