US President Trump says he avoided a retaliatiory strike on Iran

Aerial View of Tehran

"But I'm not looking to do that", Mr Trump told NBC News in an interview a day after he aborted a planned air strike against Iranian targets in retaliation for Tehran shooting down a U.S. drone.

The U.S. said its RQ-4A Global Hawk was shot down Thursday over worldwide waters in the Strait of Hormuz, not inside Iranian airspace. So it wasn't much of a surprise that when Washington asked Iran to return the drone, Iranian officials scoffed, instead displaying the captured aircraft on national television.

Huddling with administration officials at the presidential retreat Camp David, Trump announced the move in a tweet.

A week before the attack John Bolton, a hawkish presidential adviser and arguably the major cheerleader of the feud with Iran, revealed that United States is ramping up offensive cyber operations against its adversaries.

"We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night", he said.

Meanwhile, US-imposed sanctions have constrained Iran's economy.

In 2012, Iranian officials said they had infiltrated the drone's system and were working on creating a version for their own uses.

But Trump left that agreement more than a year ago and has imposed a robust slate of punitive economic sanctions created to choke off Iranian oil sales and cripple its economy - one he now plans to expand.

"Regardless of any decision they [U.S. officials] make ... we will not allow any of Iran's borders to be violated. Iran will firmly confront any aggression or threat by America", Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the local media outlet.

Mr Trump's assertion that he learned only at the last minute of his military advisers' casualty estimate does not align with the usual way a president is briefed on military attack options.

In remarks today, the aerospace commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said that the violation of Iran's airspace could have been "a mistake by an American general".

A senior US official spearheading Washington's diplomatic campaign against Iran said on Saturday that he expected Tehran to "push back" against intensified sanctions announced by US President Donald Trump on Saturday, but he would not be drawn on whether he expected there to be further attacks by Tehran in the region after the downing of a US drone.

Conservative critics excoriated the Obama Administration when then-Secretary of State John Kerry publicly thanked Iran for releasing a group of American sailors who had apparently strayed into Iranian waters in 2016.

Iran is allegedly targeting US cyber infrastructure in its recent attacks, as tension continues to rise between Washington and Tehran. "I want people on both sides", he said.

Tensions between between the two countries have spiked since Washington a year ago withdrew from the 2015 global nuclear deal and imposed a steady stream of sanctions that have choked off Iranian oil sales and crippled its economy.

But the tensions reached a fever pitch in recent weeks after two oil tankers were attacked, supposedly by the Iranian forces as the regime flexes its muscles over tough sanctions that caused its currency to drop by about 60 percent in 12 months while food and drug prices are up 40 and 60 percent, respectively. The systems were used to control rocket and missile launches.

A Department of Defense spokeswoman said it would not comment on cyberspace operations, intelligence or planning.

World powers have called for calm after the incidents.

"We will call it 'Let's make Iran great again'".

Britain's Foreign Office said Middle East minister Andrew Murrison would visit Tehran on Sunday to raise concerns about "Iran's regional conduct and its threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal".

A war against Iran, a country with three times the population of Iraq at the time of the 2003 invasion and four times its territory, will inevitably draw in the entire region.

The shootdown came with Iran already accused by Washington of carrying out attacks on tankers in the congested shipping lanes heading out of the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. Saudi Arabian Airlines joined some other global airlines on Saturday in taking related precautions.

Iran said on Saturday that its airspace was "safe and secure" for all planes to cross, Tasnim reported.



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