President Donald Trump is still determining how best to respond to Iran after its latest aggression in the Strait of Hormuz.
On June 20, hours after the Islamic Republic shot down a U.S. drone roughly the size of a 737, a retaliatory airstrike seemed imminent.
That evening retired Army General Jack Keane made his second fortuitous appearance of the day on Trump’s favorite news channel. (Politico)
Keane, a retired four-star Army general, said that Trump, who had speculated earlier in the day that the Iranian action might have been a fluke rather than a deliberate provocation, had a point. Mistakes happen.
“Our viewers may have forgotten, but during the tanker war in the late ’80s when Reagan did take some action, we actually made a mistake,” Keane said, referring to President Ronald Reagan. “We had a USS warship shoot down an Iranian airliner in Iranian airspace. Two-hundred ninety people killed. Sixty-six of them were children. And we took that for a Tomahawk F-14. That was clearly a mistake by the ship’s crew in doing that. And we acknowledged that we made a horrific mistake.”
‘Keane’s reference to the United States’ accidental downing of an Iranian commercial airliner in 1988 made a profound impact on the president, who was “spooked” when he learned of the incident, according to two sources briefed on his reaction. The president made repeated comments about the tragedy on the evening of the 20th, leading aides to believe that ‘Keane’s brief history lesson exacerbated’ Trump’s pre-existing doubts about carrying out the strike.
Though it is unclear just how decisive Keane’s description of the decades-old incident was in the president’s decision to call off the airstrikes — Trump also had repeated conversations with Fox News host Tucker Carlson before he made the call — it wouldn’t be the first time the 76-year-old former Army vice chief of staff has, wittingly or not, served as a shadow foreign policy adviser to the commander in chief.
Deceased Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes helped introduce Keane to Trump shortly after his election.
The then-president-elect offered Keane the job of Secretary of Defense.
Keane, whose wife died that summer declined. However, the two exchanged numbers and have stayed in touch.