Checkpoint Asia

Trump Credits Iran With Not Shooting Down US Surveillance Plane With 38 on Board

Comes after White House told NYT the drone and the P-8 plane may both have violated Iranian airspace

President Trump said Saturday that Iran was “very wise” not to shoot down a manned plane when it decided to down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone.

“There was a plane with 38 people yesterday. Did you see that? I think that’s a big story. They had it in their sights, and they didn’t shoot it down. I think they were very wise not to do that. And we appreciate that they didn’t do that. I think that was a very wise decision,” Trump told reporters Saturday.

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The Associated Press reported Friday that an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general said a manned U.S. spy plane was near the surveillance drone it shot down but that Tehran chose not to target it.

The shooting down of the drone this week inched the U.S. and Iran closer to war. Trump had authorized retaliatory military strikes but pulled back after learning that as many as 150 Iranians could be killed.

“Anything is a lot when they shoot down an unmanned [drone],” Trump told reporters Saturday about the possible casualties from the aborted strike.

Tensions have risen between the U.S. and Iran in recent weeks after Washington accused Tehran of bombing two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

The U.S. responded by announcing the deployment of 1,000 additional troops, which was followed by an Iranian threat to surpass the limit on its uranium enrichment imposed by an Obama-era nuclear pact.

“They’re not going to have a nuclear weapon. We’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon,” Trump assured reporters Saturday.

The president said existing sanctions have already taken their toll on the Iranian economy and that more would soon be implemented to try to force Tehran to the negotiating table.

“Iran right now is an economic mess. They’re going through hell. The sanctions have hit them hard. More sanctions are going to be put on, a lot more. All I want is no nuclear weapons,” Trump said. “We could have a deal with them very quickly if they wanted to. It’s up to them.”

The president said he is going to Camp David this weekend for meetings and phone calls on the situation with Iran.

Source: The Hill

Comes after White House admitted to The New York Times the military could not say for sure the drone had not violated Iranian airspace:

But a senior Trump administration official said there was concern inside the United States government about whether the drone, or another American surveillance aircraft, or even the P-8A manned aircraft flown by a military aircrew, actually did violate Iranian airspace at some point. The official said the doubt was one of the reasons Mr. Trump called off the strike.