Trump calls off Iran strike

3:49 p.m. ET, June 21, 2019

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3:23 p.m. ET, June 21, 2019

A brief timeline of recent US-Iran relations

Tensions between the US and Iran have been escalating in recent days.

Here's a look at the most recent developments in the two nations' relationships:

  • June 13: Two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman are attacked. The US blames Iran for the incident, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying the assessment was based on intelligence (but he presented no evidence to support his claim).
  • June 14: President Trump says "Iran did do it" when asked about the attacks.
  • Thursday: Iran shoots down a US military drone. The US claims the drone was in international airspace, while Iran says the drone was over its territory.
  • Thursday night: President Trump calls off a military operation to strike Iran in retaliation for the downed drone.
  • Today: Trump tweets that the US was "cocked & loaded to retaliate" against Iran, but he called off the strike because he decided there would be too many deaths for a proportionate response to the downing of the US drone.
  • Also today: The Federal Aviation Administration bans US airlines from flying over the area and several other airlines said they would avoid the Strait of Hormuz.
1:24 p.m. ET, June 21, 2019

There is no indication the US is talking to Iran, source says

There is no indication the United States has been talking to Iran, even through a backchannel, a senior diplomatic source from a US ally told CNN.

The source was also critical of US tactics regarding Iran leading up to the latest incident involving the shootdown of a US drone.

While Washington says the goal is to re-establish deterrence on Iran, the source said “re-establishment of deterrence is escalation. US actions brought us where we are today. Yet, meanwhile, the Iranians keep hearing Trump saying he doesn’t want war. So they’ll keep going right up to what they feel is the current line."

1:14 p.m. ET, June 21, 2019

Trump: Planes were not in the air when I pulled back the strike

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump described in more detail his decision to pull back strikes on Iran, saying he didn't feel an attack that left 150 dead was proportionate to the downing of a US drone. 

"Nothing was greenlighted until the very end because things change," Trump said in an interview with NBC News. "We had something ready to go subject to my approval."

Trump said planes were not in the air when he ordered the pull back, but "would have been pretty soon."

"Things would have happened to a point where you would not turn back, you could not turn back," he said.

Trump said he asked his national security officials how many would be killed if he went forward, and was given an approximate figure of 150.

 "I thought about it for a second and I said, you know what, they shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it, and here we are sitting with a 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead, and I didn’t like it, I didn’t think, I didn’t think it was proportionate," Trump said.

12:35 p.m. ET, June 21, 2019

Behind the Trump administration's decision-making on Iran

The call not go forward with the strike was made between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, a separate senior administration official said.

The source said key players in the decision were not all huddled in the Situation Room. Some White House officials involved weren't physically in the White House and Department of Defense officials were at the Pentagon. 

The source said while President Trump had received the risk assessment before the strike, "he made the call when he internalized the severity of casualties." 

Once they had almost reached the trigger point, the President made the final call.

Behind the decision: The source said just because the administration didn't follow through with the strike, that doesn't mean there still won't be a response.

There was unanimity on the strike, led by national security adviser Bolton. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were also in agreement. Other officials agreed that there needed to be some kind of response. The source made clear that officials still believe a response is needed and that is what they are considering today. There were different responses presented and different voices about whether the strike was the right response.

11:23 a.m. ET, June 21, 2019

What the 2020 candidates are saying about Iran

Some Democrats running for President have started weighing in on the escalating tensions in Iran and President Trump's decision to call off a strike against the nation.

Here's a look at where some of the 2020 contenders stand:

  • Asked how he'd respond to escalating tensions in Iran, Pete Buttigieg said "I would first respond by engaging our allies, this is not the kind of situation that you want to deal with alone." He said the US is currently in an "extremely dangerous moment" and added that Trump "has trouble making decisions."
  • Corey Booker said the Trump administration has "led us on a march to war, with no off ramp" and accused President Trump and other officials of being "bent on escalating an already tenuous situation in the Middle East, with no plan in place to de-escalate tensions."
  • When asked about Trump's decision to call off the strike last night, John Hickenlooper said, "I would argue reckless foreign policy that President Trump has been pursuing makes us less safe and makes the world less safe."
  • This morning, Tulsi Gabbard tweeted, "Iran war is HIGHLY likely unless Trump swallows his pride & returns to the Iran nuclear agreement he tore up."
9:54 a.m. ET, June 21, 2019

Iran said it could have shot down a US plane with people on board. The US confirms an aircraft was in the area.

There was a P-8 surveillance aircraft operating in the area at the time Iran shot down a RQ-4 yesterday, a US official tells CNN.

The plane was in international airspace, the official said.

According to the US Navy, the P-8 aircraft is configured to carry a crew of 9 people.

What this is all about: Earlier today, Iran said there was a US plane flying near the downed RQ-4 drone, but they refrained from targeting it, according to Iran’s commander of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, Amir Ali Hajizadeh.

"While we were tracking the spy drone there was also a P-8 spy plane with 35 crew on board which we could have shot at, but we did not do so," Hajizadeh said.

Note: Hajizadeh said the plane was carrying a crew of 35 people — far more than the 9 the P-8 is configured to carry.

9:13 a.m. ET, June 21, 2019

Trump tweets on Iran: "We were cocked & loaded"

President Trump is tweeting about his decision to stop an operation to strike Iran last night.

"We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die," he tweeted. "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."

Here's his full thread:

9:06 a.m. ET, June 21, 2019

Here's where things stand with US-Iran relations now

Tensions have been escalating between the US and Iran. If you're just getting caught up, here's what you need to know:

  • First, some background: Iran shot down a United States military drone on Thursday. Last week, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman — and US officials have blamed Iran for conducting.
  • About the downed drone: The US claims the drone was in international airspace, while Iran says the drone was over its territory.
  • Last night: A military operation to strike Iran in retaliation for the downed drone was set to begin Thursday night when President Trump called it off, a US official with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN.
  • How tensions are affecting flights: The Federal Aviation Administration is prohibiting US flights over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman due to rising tensions. Some airlines that operate flights in the region said Friday that they would adjust their operations.