After Iran-aligned militants killed three American soldiers, Iran’s leaders sensed a line was crossed, and are sending more conciliatory signals while awaiting President Biden’s promised response.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council held an emergency meeting this week, deeply worried that the United States would retaliate after an Iran-aligned militia in Iraq killed three American soldiers and wounded more than 40 others in Jordan.
The council, including the president, foreign minister, chiefs of the armed forces and two aides to the country’s supreme leader, debated how to respond to a range of possibilities, from a U.S. attack on Iran, itself, to strikes against the proxy militias that Iran backs in the region, according to three Iranians with knowledge of the council’s deliberations who were not authorized to speak publicly.
They relayed the plans developed at the Monday meeting to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the people familiar with the discussion said, and he responded with clear orders: avoid a direct war with the United States and distance Iran from the actions of proxies who had killed Americans — but prepare to hit back if the United States struck Iran.
By Wednesday high-level Iranian officials, including the foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations, were publicly proclaiming the stance set out by Mr. Khamenei, trying to reassure Iranians anxious about the prospect of war, and to temper the response by President Biden, who has promised retaliation in the coming days.