We almost went to war on Tuesday night. But then we didn’t. President Trump has proven once again how his flexibility and strategic instinct is keeping America and much of the world safe.

On Tuesday night, Iran launched fifteen missiles against two military camps – Camp Erbil  and Camp Al Asad – where U.S. troops are being housed. And although Iran warned Iraq of their intentions, they did not warn the Americans, contrary to some reports. The Americans were warned by U.S. sigint (signal intelligence) and satellite imagery that showed the launch sites in Iran being prepared. U.S. soldiers were then ordered to shelters where they rode out the assaults without any casualties. 

The attacks gave the President a major decision to make, and he took it very seriously. Because he did not yet know how serious these two attacks were going to be, or where they would lead, he prepared for the worst. He had warned the Iranians that if they made good on their threat to retaliate in force for the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, then the U.S. would have to respond in kind, but in Trump’s own words, the response would be “disproportional”.

So he ordered six B-52s newly stationed in Diego Garcia, off the west coast of India, and eight F-22s based at Incirlik NATO Air Base in Turkey airborne, into the air, bound for Iran. All the planes were fully loaded with ordnance, and were ready for war. The fire power on these fourteen planes was extraordinarily deadly. And to those who were following the activity, war seemed certain. 

A funny thing happened on the way to the war. Iran fired two rounds of about fifteen Fatah 1 surface-to-surface missiles into the two camps where Americans were stationed, and then – as suddenly as they began – the missile fire stopped.

Iran had vowed to inflict a “harsh retaliation” for the death of Soleimani, but after the second round of missiles fell on the camps, Iran announced that the retaliation was over. 

What triggered the change in plans? We don’t know for sure, but the planes, which were in flight to take out the launching pads and, possibly some of Iran’s nuclear sites, were ordered back to their bases. 

A significant escalation had been averted.

The President’s calculations were likely based on several factors: that the Iranians had pulled back from further attacks, and that they had not hurt a single U.S. soldier. There was also the fact that by sending the planes to the Iranian border, the message that the U.S. would be sending to Iran would be loud and clear. And Iran apparently took it very seriously indeed. 

So President Trump brought America back from the brink of war. It would have been a war that he didn’t want, and, without that show of strength, one that he might not have been able to avoid. 

What he demonstrated was raw courage in the face of international pressure from every side. He knew that without a show of force, Iran would not back down. The deployment of so much air power on a direct path to Iran was indeed disproportional and that is what may have been why his strategy worked so well. 

We do not know what will unfold over the next few weeks. Will Iran muster its courage and decide to attack U.S. assets again? It’s possible. The mullahs and their officers are unpredictable at best, and bordering on insanity at worst. And the militias in Iraq have already begun firing rockets into Baghdad’s Green Zone again, so maybe Iran is beginning to lose control of its proxies.

There is more that is unknown than is known about the immediate future in that part of the world. But the U.S. has thousands of troops, two battle groups, an amphibious warship that was redirected from an exercise with Morocco, at least 52 F-35 fighter jets, six B-52s, and a lot more. We are ready, and I have no doubt that the President will not hesitate to use them these powerful assets against Iran, should they try to engage in a new battle against our personnel and our assets. 

One thing I am sure of. President Trump is the right man at the right time. And keeping America safe and secure seems to be his first priority.

Image: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Madelyn Brown