President Donald Trump on Friday said he backed down on his plan to strike Iran after considering its potential death toll.
Mr Trump has been furious since Iran shot down an American spy drone on Thursday. Both countries have disagreed on the position of the unmanned drone at the time it was shot down.
Iran said the drone was already miles into its territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. The United States disputed that claim, saying the drone was about 21 miles away from Iranian territory in the international waters.
Mr Trump moved to respond militarily to the incident, issuing approval Thursday night for urgent strikes on Iranian military assets. Mr Trump subsequently backed down from the strikes, The New York Times reported late Thursday.
The American president admitted Friday afternoon that he ordered the strikes, but rescinded the decision after learning from military chiefs that it would have a devastating death toll.
“We were cocked and loaded to retaliate last night on three different sights when I asked, how many will die: 150 people, sir, was the answer from a general,” Mr Trump tweeted, adding that “10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”
Mr Trump also vowed to tighten sanctions on Iran to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power, but said he would take the matter before the United Nations Security Council in the meantime.
Iranian authorities insisted downing the drone was appropriate and considered it an external aggression against its sovereignty.