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U.S. Aircraft Were Ready To Strike Iranian Targets, Reports Say


The United States did not conduct airstrikes on Iran overnight. Normally, it would not be major news that something did not happen. But multiple news outlets, starting with The New York Times, report that President Trump ordered strikes and aircrafts were already flying when he changed his mind and called the strikes off. The U.S. is debating how to respond after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone. NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe begins our coverage here.

Hey there, Ayesha.


INSKEEP: What were the targets that were reportedly almost struck?

RASCOE: Well - so The New York Times first reported and, as you said, others have reported that Trump approved limited airstrikes on Iranian targets like radar and missile batteries and that the planes were in the air and the ships were en route when they were told to stand down.

INSKEEP: And we have this decision - this last-minute decision reportedly by the president. We don't know a lot of inside details yet. But what about the way the president has talked about this shootdown in public? Has he sounded like he wanted a war?

RASCOE: Well - so at this point, he's kind of seemed to be pulled in different directions. He seems like he wants to talk tough. He had tweeted, you know, Iran made a very big mistake yesterday. But - and then he also said, you know, kind of you'll see what we end up doing in response to this. But then he also was saying that, you know, it looked like maybe they didn't actually intend - Iran didn't actually intend to shoot down the drone and that he kind of saw it as who would actually do that and maybe it was just somebody kind of going off on their own and doing something. And so it seemed like he was trying to kind of de-escalate a little bit yesterday. But then these reports have come out.

INSKEEP: OK. And we'll seek more clarity on them. Let's bring another voice into the conversation. NPR's Peter Kenyon covers Iran. He's currently in Istanbul. Peter, what is Iran saying about all of this?

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, Irani state TV has been broadcasting images of wreckage. It says these are sections of the downed U.S. drone that have been recovered in Iranian waters. The government has meanwhile summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran to complain about what it calls the American drone incursion. The Swiss represent U.S. interests in Iran. At least one Iranian outlet is reporting The New York Times' story about Trump ordering this attack and then changing his mind but without any comment or reaction. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.