White House, Tehran Ease Tensions

Rising tension between the U.S. and Iran eased at least temporarily on Friday after President Donald Trump said he called off a planned military strike in order to spare Iranian lives, a development that opened the way for offers of diplomacy from other world leaders, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Trump said he decided late Thursday to halt a military strike on Iran only 10 minutes before its scheduled start after he learned that it would kill 150 people. He said such an action would have been a disproportionate response to Iran’s downing of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone that was flying over the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Iran said Friday it also had taken steps to avoid American casualties in the operation, shooting down the spy plane but not firing on a manned U.S. aircraft flying nearby.

The U.S. military acknowledged Friday there was a P8 surveillance plane in the vicinity of where the drone was shot down, where it routinely flies missions “consistent with international law,” a military spokesman said in a statement.

The decisions in both Washington and Tehran pointed to the possibility of an unspoken agreement to avoid loss of life in the conflict over punitive U.S. sanctions, Iran’s nuclear program and other regional disputes. However, while both sides have said they don’t want war, neither acknowledged the existence of a tacit boundary, the Journal noted.

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General.”

Expanding on his decision in an NBC interview later Friday, Trump said: “I thought about it for a second, and I said, ‘You know what, they shot down an unmanned drone. And here we are sitting with 150 dead people.’…And I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was proportionate.”

Other world leaders seized on the momentary ease in tensions to call for talks, the Journal adds.

“We must absolutely avoid escalation,” said French President Emmanuel Macron during a European Commission gathering in Brussels. “So I invite all the parties involved to reason, to de-escalation and now to discussion.” Macron said next week’s summit of officials from the Group of 20 leading nations in Japan offers a chance to “try to build some concrete diplomatic solutions to this situation, which can’t continue as it is because there is too much instability and tension.”

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