President Donald Trump in the White House on June 20, 2019
Photo: AP

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order overnight barring U.S.-based airlines from flying over some airspace controlled by Iran. The FAA order came just as news broke that President Donald Trump had ordered a military strike against Iran on Thursday, but had called it off at the last minute.

The FAA order bars U.S.-based carriers from traveling in the so-called Tehran Flight Information Region, including areas like the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The flight ban is in place indefinitely and some international carriers like British Airways, Qantas in Australia, and KLM in the Netherlands have followed suit, prohibiting their passenger planes from the area.

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“Our safety and security team are constantly liaising with authorities around the world as part of their comprehensive risk assessment into every route we operate,” a spokesperson for British Airways told Gizmodo by email, confirming that they’re using alternative routes.

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The flight ban comes as American war hawks like Senator Lindsey Graham call for military retaliation against Iran. That country’s Revolutionary Guard shot down an RQ-4A Global Hawk drone operated by the U.S. over the Strait of Hormuz late Wednesday and Iranian officials have claimed that the drone was flying over its sovereign territory. But American officials insist that the drone was in international airspace.

Iranian state TV aired footage Friday of what it claimed was wreckage from the U.S. drone that the Revolutionary Guard had shot down.

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The New York Times, Washington Post, and Newsweek all independently confirmed President Trump’s plan to attack Iran on Thursday but the Times story notes that U.S. government officials didn’t ask the newspaper to hold the story, something that is sometimes done when national security is at risk.

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The New York Times report paints a picture of chaos and indecision in Washington yesterday as planes were already in the air to drop bombs on Iran before the president canceled the order:

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.

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Newsweek reports that U.S. military assets in the region, like the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, are currently on 72-hour standby. Earlier this week, the Pentagon signaled that it was sending roughly 1,000 additional American troops to the area.

American officials have reportedly sent Iran a message through diplomats in Oman overnight because the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran. But it’s not clear that it will help to ease tension.

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“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues... He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei to decide about this issue,” an Iranian government official from Iran told Reuters.

“We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision... However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences,” another Iranian official reportedly said.

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U.S. relations with Iran had improved over the Obama administration, after a complex international agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) was signed by Iran, six other countries and the European Union. Derisively called the Iran Deal by President Trump, the agreement eliminated many of Iran’s stockpiles of uranium and helped stabilize the world while ensuring that Iran couldn’t develop a nuclear weapon.

But President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in an idiotic move that has brought us to where we are today. Where are we? At the brink of war with no relief in sight.

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