- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2019

President Trump said Thursday that Iran’s downing of a U.S. Navy drone over international waters in the Middle East was likely the action of a “stupid” individual Iranian general who made a “foolish” unintentional mistake.

“This country will not stand for it,” the president said. “This is a new wrinkle, a new fly in the ointment.”

Mr. Trump appeared to be backing away from a military response, however, pointing out that the drone wasn’t manned and that he has a “feeling…it was a mistake made by somebody who shouldn’t be doing what they did.”

The president, who was briefed Thursday morning on the rising tensions with Iran, made the comments to reporters as he met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House. Although he said Iran “made a very big mistake,” Mr. Trump didn’t immediately indicate what response the U.S. might make.

Asked if he is planning a military response, Mr. Trump replied, “You’ll soon find out.”

“We didn’t have a man or woman in the drone — it would have made a big, big difference,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I imagine someone made a mistake. I find it hard to believe it was intentional.”

He added that he believes it was someone “loose and stupid who did it.”

The White House invited congressional leaders of both parties to a 3 p.m. briefing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a close ally of the president, said after speaking with Mr. Trump on Thursday morning that Iran is “testing” him.

“I’m convinced that as a last resort, President Trump will stop this behavior,” Mr. Graham said. “He’s a dealmaker, he’s trying to avoid conflict. But this is truly a defining moment for him.”

He said the president has made clear to the Iranians that they cannot disrupt navigation or attack U.S. allies, such as the two oil ships struck by mines earlier this week in international waters off the coast of Iran.

“If they get away with this, God help us with North Korea and throughout the world,” Mr. Graham said after emerging from a classified briefing for lawmakers on Iran.

He said the president “believes we’re getting into a bad space, that his options are running out, that he’s not going to be intimidated to re-do a nuclear deal that was terrible.” “He’s not going to relieve sanctions because the Iranians are worse than they’ve been.”

• Lauren Meier contributed to this report.

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