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Strikes on Iran Approved by Trump, Then Abruptly Pulled Back
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Trump Calls Iran’s Shooting Down of a U.S. Drone a ‘Very Bad Mistake’

During a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Trump responded to questions about Iran shooting down a United States surveillance drone.

“This drone was in international waters. Clearly, we have it all documented. It’s documented scientifically — not just words — and they made a very bad mistake.” Reporter: “Mr. President —” Reporter: “How will you respond?” “You’ll find out.” Reporter: “Are you willing to go to war with Iran?” “You’ll find out You’ll find out.” Reporter: “Mr. President —” “Obviously, you know, we’re not going to be talking too much about it. You’re going to find out — they made a very big mistake. I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down. And fortunately, that drone was unarmed. It was not — there was no man in it. And there was no — it was just, it was over international waters. Clearly over international waters. But we didn’t have a man or woman in the drone. We had nobody in the drone.” Reporter: “Are you still open —” “Would have made a big difference, let me tell you, it would have made a big, big difference. But I have a feeling, I may be wrong, and I may be right, but I’m right a lot. I have a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn’t have been doing what they did.”

Video player loading During a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Trump responded to questions about Iran shooting down a United States surveillance drone.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
  • June 20, 2019

WASHINGTON — President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.

Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.

The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.

[Update: Facing intensifying confrontation with Iran, Trump has few appealing options.]

The abrupt reversal put a halt to what would have been the president’s third military action against targets in the Middle East. Mr. Trump had struck twice at targets in Syria, in 2017 and 2018.

It was not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward.

Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials. No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.

The retaliation plan was intended as a response to the shooting down of the unmanned, $130 million surveillance drone, which was struck Thursday morning by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, according to a senior administration official who was briefed on the military planning and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential plans.

The strike was set to take place just before dawn Friday in Iran to minimize risk to the Iranian military and civilians.

But military officials received word a short time later that the strike was off, at least temporarily.

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Two tankers attacked in June in this area

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Two tankers attacked in June in this area

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Four tankers attacked in May in this area

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waters

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Iran said drone shot down here

U.S. said drone shot down here

Two tankers attacked in June in this area

Four tankers attacked in May in this area

Gulf of Oman

UNITED

ARAB

EMIRATES

Bandar Abbas

Strait of Hormuz

Iran said drone shot down here

U.S. said drone shot down here

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boundary

Two tankers attacked in June in this area

Al Fujairah

Four tankers attacked in May in this area

Iran’s territorial

waters

Abu Dhabi

Gulf of Oman

UNITED

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Muscat

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[The U.S. and Iran are once again hurtling toward potential crisis. Here’s a timeline.]

The possibility of a retaliatory strike hung over Washington for much of the day. Officials in both countries traded accusations about the location of the drone when it was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile launched from the Iranian coast along the Gulf of Oman.

Mr. Trump’s national security advisers split about whether to respond militarily. Senior administration officials said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; John R. Bolton, the national security adviser; and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, had favored a military response. But top Pentagon officials cautioned that such an action could result in a spiraling escalation with risks for American forces in the region.

Congressional leaders were briefed by administration officials in the Situation Room.

The destruction of the drone underscored the already tense relations between the two countries after Mr. Trump’s recent accusations that Iran is to blame for explosions last week that damaged oil tankers traveling through the strait, the vital waterway for much of the world’s oil. Iran has denied that accusation.

Iran’s announcement this week that it would soon breach one of the key limits it had agreed to in a 2015 pact intended to limit its nuclear program has also fueled tensions. Mr. Trump, who pulled the United States out of the 2015 pact, has vowed that he will not allow Tehran to build a nuclear weapon.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump insisted that the United States’ unmanned surveillance aircraft was flying over international waters when it was taken down by an Iranian missile.

“This drone was in international waters, clearly,” the president told reporters on Thursday afternoon at the White House as he began a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. “We have it all documented. It’s documented scientifically, not just words.”

Asked what would come next, Mr. Trump said, “Let’s see what happens.”

Iran’s government fiercely disputed the president’s characterization, insisting that the American drone had strayed into Iranian airspace. Iran released GPS coordinates that put the drone eight miles off the country’s coast, inside the 12 nautical miles from the shore that Iran claims as its territorial waters.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in a letter to the Security Council that the drone ignored repeated radio warnings before it was downed. He said that Tehran “does not seek war” but “is determined to vigorously defend its land, sea and air.”

Congressional Democrats emerged from the president’s classified briefing in the Situation Room and urged Mr. Trump to de-escalate the situation. They called on the president to seek congressional authorization before taking any military action.

“This is a dangerous situation,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “We are dealing with a country that is a bad actor in the region. We have no illusions about Iran in terms of their ballistic missile transfers, about who they support in the region and the rest.”

Iran’s destruction of the drone appeared to provide a boost for officials inside the Trump administration who have long argued for a more confrontational approach to Iran, including the possibility of military actions that could punish the regime for its support of terrorism and other destabilizing behavior in the region.

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The U.S. Says Iran Attacked Tankers. Does the Evidence Add Up?

A Times analysis of a video and images publicly released by the U.S. Defense Department indicates that an Iranian patrol boat removed an object from a tanker in the Gulf of Oman on June 13 that may have been a limpet mine.

When explosions crippled two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, the incident immediately heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran and raised alarms about the security of a vital passageway for a third of the world’s petroleum. The U.S. blamed Iran for unprovoked attacks on the ship. “— present a clear threat.” Iran said American officials were “warmongering.” The main evidence the U.S. has presented to the public to support its claim are these photos and this surveillance footage taken several hours after the attack on one of the tankers. The footage has significant gaps, cuts out at key moments and zooms in and out. It does not depict a single sequence of events or an explosive being planted. Days later, the U.S. released new images to back up its claim. They don’t show definitively who is responsible for the attacks. But here’s what the images do show us. First, the tanker: We can confirm that this tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, is the same ship that was approached by the Iranian vessel. These distinctive features match. And shipping data confirms it was 20 miles off the coast of Iran when it was attacked. Next, the patrol boat, which does appear to be Iranian. It matches the model and dimensions of patrol boats used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy. The chevron pattern on the bow of the boat matches, and so does the center console. And they both have antiaircraft guns. An Iranian source familiar with the country’s military operations told us that this clearer picture of the same patrol boat does show an I.R.G.C. vessel. And the incident occurred in Iran’s area of responsibility. Last, the alleged mine: A U.S. Navy ship took this photograph before the Iranian patrol appeared. It shows damage to the ship and what appears to be an object protruding from the hull. The new images released by the U.S. Defense Department appear to show the outline of a limpet mine similar to this mine design on the right. The dimensions of the mine match. These markings match clasps used to attach the mine to the tanker and this remnant matches the size and design of those clasps. Weapons experts say this could resemble limpet mines that are available to Iran, but there’s still no conclusive proof that they are Iranian. So it appears that an Iranian boat did remove a limpet mine from the ship’s hull. But importantly, the pictures released by the U.S. lack the crucial piece of evidence: The moment the mine was placed. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that President Trump wants to avoid war. “President Trump does not want war. We will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.” Even still, the Defense Department decided to send 1,000 additional troops to the region in response. But as U.S.-Iran relations continue to crumble, this slim waterway will remain a hotbed of tension.

Video player loading A Times analysis of a video and images publicly released by the U.S. Defense Department indicates that an Iranian patrol boat removed an object from a tanker in the Gulf of Oman on June 13 that may have been a limpet mine.CreditCredit…U.S. Dept. of Defense

But in his public appearance, Mr. Trump initially seemed to be looking for a way to avoid a potentially serious military crisis. Instead of directly accusing the leaders of Iran, Mr. Trump said someone “loose and stupid” in Iran was responsible for shooting down the drone.

The president said he suspected it was some individual in Iran who “made a big mistake,” even as Iran had taken responsibility for the strike and asserted that the high-altitude American drone was operating over Iranian air space, which American officials denied.

Mr. Trump said the episode would have been far more serious if the aircraft had been a piloted vehicle, and not a drone. It made “a big, big difference” that an American pilot was not threatened, he told reporters.

Last year, Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran, over the objections of China, Russia and American allies in Europe. He has also imposed punishing economic sanctions on Iran, trying to cut off its already limited access to international trade, including oil sales.

Iran has warned of serious consequences if Europe does not find a way around those sanctions, though it has denied involvement in the attacks on tankers near the vital Strait of Hormuz. On Monday, Iran said it would soon stop abiding by a central component of the nuclear deal, the limit on how much enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile.

Both Washington and Tehran said the downing of the drone occurred at 4:05 a.m. Thursday in Iran, or 7:35 p.m. Wednesday in Washington. The drone “was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz,” the United States Central Command said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

[Update: Almost a month after Iran shot down an American spy drone, President Trump said the American military downed an Iranian drone.]

Iran’s ability to target and destroy the high-altitude American drone, which was developed to evade the very surface-to-air missiles used to bring it down, surprised some Defense Department officials, who interpreted it as a show of how difficult Tehran can make things for the United States as it deploys more troops and steps up surveillance in the region.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, the Air Force commander for the Central Command region in the Middle East, said the attack could have endangered “innocent civilians,” even though officials at Central Command continued to assert that the drone was over international waters. He said that the closest that the drone got to the Iranian coast was 21 miles.

Late Thursday, the Defense Department released additional imagery in an email to support its case that the drone never entered Iranian airspace. But the department incorrectly called the flight path of the drone the location of the shooting down and offered little context for an image that appeared to be the drone exploding in midair.

It was the latest attempt by the Pentagon to try to prove that Iran has been the aggressor in a series of international incidents.

ImageAn image from Iranian state television’s English service purportedly showing a surface-to-air missile being launched to shoot down an American surveillance drone. An image from Iranian state television’s English service purportedly showing a surface-to-air missile being launched to shoot down an American surveillance drone.Credit…Press TV

[What we know and don’t know about Iran shooting down an American drone.]

Iran’s foreign affairs minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in a post on Twitter that he gave what he said were precise coordinates for where the American drone was targeted.

“At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace,” he said in a tweet that included coordinates that he said were near Kouh-e Mobarak. “We’ve retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.”

Mr. Trump’s comments on Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office reflected the longstanding tension between the president’s desire to be seen as tough on the world stage and his campaign promise to make sure that the United States did not get tangled in more foreign wars.

The president has embraced a reputation as someone who punches back when he is challenged. Only months into his tenure, Mr. Trump launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an air base in Syria after a chemical weapon attack.

But he has often talked about ending American involvement in long-running conflicts abroad, describing his “America First” agenda as having little room for being the world’s police force. In a tweet in January, he said he hoped that “Endless Wars, especially those which are fought out of judgement mistakes” would “eventually come to a glorious end!”

According to Iranian news media, a foreign minister spokesman there said that flying a drone into Iranian airspace was an “aggressive and provocative” move by the United States.

Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said crossing the country’s border was “our red line,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

“We are not going to get engaged in a war with any country, but we are fully prepared for war,” Mr. Salami said at a military ceremony in Sanandaj, Iran, according to a translation from Press TV, a state-run news outlet. “Today’s incident was a clear sign of this precise message, so we are continuing our resistance.”

Iranian news media said the drone had flown over Iranian territory unauthorized, and reported that it had been shot down in the Hormozgan Province, along the country’s southern coast on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Both the United States and Iran identified the aircraft as an RQ-4 Global Hawk, a surveillance drone made by Northrop Grumman.

“This was a show of force — their equivalent of an inside pitch,” said Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs during the Obama administration, speaking of Iran’s decision to shoot down the drone.

James G. Stavridis, who retired as a four-star admiral after serving as the supreme allied commander at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, warned that the two countries were in a dangerous game that could quickly spiral out of control. He described Iran’s downing of the drone, which costs about $130 million, as a “logical albeit highly dangerous escalatory move by Iran.”

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This Blender Hack Makes Eggs Benedict SO Much Easier

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Yields: 4

Prep Time: 0 hours 10 mins

Total Time: 0 hours 30 mins

Ingredients

4

large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks

1 tbsp.

butter

4

slices Canadian bacon

2

English muffins, split and toasted

1 tbsp.

warm water

1 tbsp.

fresh lemon juice

3/4 tsp.

kosher salt

1/2 c.

(1 stick) butter, melted

Chopped fresh chives, for serving

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Directions

  1. Poach eggs: Fill a large saucepan with 2 inches water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer. Break 1 egg into a small bowl and gently tip into the pan. Use a spatula to gently lift the egg from the bottom of the pan. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs and cook until the whites are just set, but the yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add Canadian bacon and cook, flipping once, until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes. 
  3. Arrange bacon on top of English muffin halves and top with poached eggs.
  4. Make sauce: In a blender, combine egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and salt and blend until frothy. With blender running, pour in hot melted butter in a very thin stream, blending until sauce is thick and emulsified. 
  5. Spoon sauce over eggs. Sprinkle with chives and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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9 Recipes for Ramen Noodles That Go Way Beyond Soup

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ramen waffle breakfast sandwich recipe

These easy ramen noodle recipes prove they’re not just for soup (but we do have a few upgraded versions of that classic too).

Ah, the enduring appeal of ramen. Most commonly known as the eternal savior of broke, hungry college students, it’s also a popular pantry staple for people of all ages, appetites, and budgets. Its allure is obvious: If you’re strapped for cash, limited on kitchen space and hardware, and/or short on time and energy, for less than a buck and in under five minutes, you’ve got yourself a satisfying hot meal.

But the thing about ramen is you often buy it in bulk, and while those first few hits of brothy goodness might do the trick, after night three you’re ready for a change.

The good news is, ramen noodles have way more potential than what the package instructions indicate. If you want to explore the versatility of that filling brick of carbs beyond the simple hot water and flavor packet trinity, give these recipes a try.

Related Reading: 9 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Instant Ramen

Ram-don

jjapaguri (ram-don)

Hana Asbrink

Fans of Oscar champ “Parasite” will be familiar with this fusion of two types of Korean instant noodles (Chapagetti and Neoguri) that’s worthy of all the gold statuettes. Here’s a situation where you don’t want to discard the seasoning pouches as they’re integral to the recipe. To accurately recreate the version from the movie, just know that legit hanwoo beef ain’t cheap (around $50/lb) so feel free to use sirloin or another cheaper cut. Get our Ram-don recipe.

Related Reading: We Can’t Get Enough of This $2 Ramen

Ramen Waffle Sandwich

ramen waffle breakfast sandwich recipe

Chowhound

If you don’t have bread or bagels but do have a waffle maker, tap ramen noodles for bun duty and indulge in this belly-filling breakfast sando. It’ll do the trick until you can make it back out to your favorite diner or bodega. Get our Ramen Waffle Sandwich recipe.

Ramen Noodle Salad

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We’ve been on a heck of a salad kick this week, haven’t we? I made my Aunt Judy’s Ramen Noodle Salad again and finally shared it on the blog for you! (Follow the link in profile for the recipe.) There’s a step in this recipe that makes all the difference and the Asian dressing with it? It’s fantastic. This really is the BEST ramen noodle cabbage salad you will ever taste! #barefeetkitchen #cabbagesalad #ramennoodlesalad #ramennoodle #bestsalad #saladrecipes #saladsofinstagram #potluckparty #sidedishes

A post shared by Mary Younkin (@barefeetkitchen) on Apr 22, 2019 at 5:58pm PDT

Dried ramen, slivered almonds, and sesame seeds join forces as a crouton topper over cabbage, scallions, and a light dressing. The crunchy combo exists somewhere in the flavor spectrum between a meatless Chinese chicken salad and coleslaw. Get the Ramen Noodle Salad recipe.

Ramen Chilies Rellenos

Chowhound

Poblanos act as a cozy container for ramen, bacon, mushrooms, and jack cheese in this blend of Japanese, Mexican, and American comfort foods. It’s a veritable melting pot, both literally and figuratively. Get the Ramen Chilies Rellenos recipe.

Related Reading: 11 Reasons Why Stuffed Peppers Are the Most Versatile (and Photogenic) Dish Ever

Late Night Asian Noodles

Shutterstock

Got the midnight munchies? Try this spin on cold sesame noodles that features ramen tossed in a blend of peanut butter (preferably chunky for added texture) and chili garlic sauce to bring the heat. Finish with a squeeze of lime and some sliced cabbage. Get our Late Night Asian Noodles recipe.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

easy chicken noodle soup recipe

Chowhound

Why settle for chicken soup when you can have chicken noodle soup? Make that cold cure even heartier with the help of some packaged ramen. You’ll feel better in no time. Get our Easy Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.

Related Reading: 15 Quick Meals from Store-Bought Rotisserie Chicken

Smoked Ramen and Soft-Boiled Egg Soup

Chowhound

While you might associate a stovetop smoker with meat, it can also take the killer combo of ramen and a soft-boiled egg to the next level. Confound your roommates over where you procured this “take-out” soup. Get our Smoked Ramen and Soft-Boiled Egg Soup recipe.

Ramen Noodle Stir Fry

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The quickest noodle stir fry!!! Ramen noodles, ground beef, beef stock, oyster sauce, ginger, garlic and Sriracha. SO SO good. https://damndelicious.net/2019/04/24/quick-ramen-noodle-stir-fry/

A post shared by Chungah Rhee (@damn_delicious) on May 11, 2019 at 6:28am PDT

Oh, the joys of a good stir-fry, and the addition of noodles only make things better. No, it’s not that healthy for you but darned if it isn’t delicious. Best of all, the leftovers show no depreciation whatsoever. Get the Ramen Noodle Stir Fry recipe.

White Chocolate Ramen Bark

white chocolate ramen bark recipe

Chowhound

Ramen? In a dessert? Say what now? It even looks as crazy as it sounds—the sweet and crunchy confection appears to have sprung from the mind of Jackson Pollock. If white chocolate isn’t your thing substitute with milk or dark chips. Get our White Chocolate Ramen Bark recipe.

Related Video: How to Make Slow Cooker Pork Ramen

David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York City. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, CBS Local, Mashable, and Gawker.

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