Trump Approved Attacking Iran, But Pulled Back at Last Minute

Military officials were expecting strikes as of late Thursday

When President Trump said “you’ll find out” of him possibly attacking Iran earlier in the day, officials say he had already signed off on such an attack. That no attack has come as on Thursday night is something of a surprise, especially for military officials.

Intense discussion and debate, and Trump bringing in Congressional leaders for a consultation on Thursday evening apparently all came with the plans approved, and Trump had ordered attacks on Iranian radar systems and missile batteries.

As of 7:00 pm, US military and diplomatic officials were still waiting for news of a strike. It got so far that one administration official said that the US warplanes were already in the air, en route to the attack, when Trump gave a call to stand down. Luckily, no missiles had yet been fired at that point.

That the attack was still on as of 7:00 pm likely means it was still on when Congressional leaders were brought in, though so far it is unclear if Trump told them anything specific about an imminent war.

Both the White House and Pentagon denied comment on why the attack didn’t happen. They also asked the New York Times, who broke the story, to withhold the article from the public.

At this point, then, all we know is Trump signed off on attacking Iran, then for some last second reason stopped the attack. It’s not clear why tis was done, or if the administration’s intention is for the attack to just happen a little bit later.

Tensions between the US and Iran have been raising concern about a war for some time, and there are multiple hawks within the administration pushing to make such an attack happen. That Trump continues to maintain that he doesn’t want war, at least publicly, is noteworthy, but signing orders to attack Iran, even if it didn’t end up happening, suggests he’s increasingly on the fence.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.