President Donald Trump on Friday explained his decision to call off U.S. airstrikes against Iranian targets, saying 150 people would have died and that he’s in “no hurry” for confrontation with Tehran amid rising tensions.
PRESUMED DEATH TOLL
In a series of tweets, Trump said the U.S. military was “cocked and loaded” to hit three different sites in retaliation for Iran’s shooting down a U.S. drone. The president said he called off the strikes 10 minutes before they were scheduled to begin, after a general told him 150 people would die.
Calling such a move disproportionate to the downing of an unmanned drone, Trump said he is in no hurry for conflict with Iran.
In an interview with NBC News, Trump said U.S. warplanes were not yet in the air when he made his decision. “But they would have been pretty soon and things would have happened to a point where you wouldn’t turn back, you couldn’t turn back,” he said.
The tensions in the Middle East continued to lift oil futures, with August West Texas Intermediate crude CLQ19, +0.16% rising 36 cents, or 0.6%, to settle at $57.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, for a weekly rise of 8.8%. The White House said Trump discussed the Iran situation with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in addition to the Saudi role in “ensuring stability” in global oil markets.
Trump in his tweets touted his own decision to pull the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and said the latter was a “much weakened nation” compared to the start of his presidency. He also said that new sanctions had been imposed on Iran Thursday night. But no such sanctions were imposed, the Washington Post reported. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a speech in Orlando that new countermeasures against Iran would be considered if it didn’t do more to address money laundering and terrorist financing.
Trump has made occasional joking comments about serving more than the Constitutionally mandated two four-year terms, and late Friday he tweeted out a video suggesting he be president “4EVA.” As recently as last weekend, Trump asked “do you think the people would demand that I stay longer?” than eight years, assuming he would win next year’s election.
Comments from Twitter users suggested the president was trolling the mainstream media. A CNN pundit recently wrote Trump wasn’t making the third-term comments to be funny and that it was a “joke” the president frequently told.
The president also approved disaster declarations for Kansas and Mississippi, two states that have suffered from severe weather. The declarations make federal funding available to the states and eligible local governments and nonprofit organizations.
Farmers in Kansas and other states have struggled with extreme weather, and have also been hit by Chinese tariffs on crops. Trump in May rolled out a $16 billion plan to help farmers hit by the trade conflict with China.