A top Iranian general said on Sunday that the United States conveyed to the Islamic Republic through an unnamed third party last month that it would carry out limited strikes to retaliate for the downing of its drone.
“After the downing of its intruding drone, the United States told us through diplomatic intermediaries that it wanted to carry out a limited operation,” said Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization and senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
“But Iran’s response was that we regard every operation as the beginning of the war,” he said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.
Last month, Trump declared that “Iran made a very big mistake” by shooting down the US drone over the Strait of Hormuz. But he also suggested that shooting down the drone was a foolish error rather than an intentional escalation of the tensions.
The US military made preparations on June 21 for limited strikes on Iran in retaliation for the downing of a US surveillance drone — which Washington insists was over international waters but Tehran says was within its airspace — but approval was abruptly withdrawn before the attacks were launched.
Trump later said the US was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran, but canceled the strikes 10 minutes before they were to be carried out after being told some 150 people could die.
“I didn’t think it was proportionate,” he said in an interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press.
Reuters reported at the time that Trump had urged Iran to come to the table to hold talks in a message conveyed through Oman, and warned that a US strike against the Islamic Republic in response to the drone incident could be imminent.
The aborted attack was the closest the US has come to a direct military strike on Iran in the year since the administration pulled out of the 2015 international agreement intended to curb the Iranian nuclear program and launched a campaign of increasing economic pressure against the Islamic Republic.
A year after Trump pulled the US from the deal, Iran already has broken through the limit the deal put on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. On Sunday, officials announced they would enrich beyond its 3.67 percent limit “in a few hours.”
All this comes as America has rushed thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast. Mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz that the US and Israel blamed on Iran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran shooting down a US military drone have raised fears of a wider conflict engulfing the region.