News Roundup for January 6, 2020

January 6, 2020

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J Street in the News

On Brink of Disaster, Congress Must Act to Prevent Trump From Launching Disastrous War With Iran, J Street
“J Street is deeply alarmed by the Trump administration’s targeted assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani. This highly dangerous step, taken without congressional authorization, could trigger a disastrous escalation costing the lives of thousands and lead our country into a devastating new war of choice in the Middle East […] Congress must now take immediate, decisive action to prevent a new war which the American people do not want. They must pass legislation making explicitly clear that the president does not have authorization to go to war with Iran, and that any such war would represent a clear violation of the constitution. They must force every member of Congress to take a vote that will make publicly clear whether they stand against war or stand with this president.”

Top News and Analysis

Blowback: Iran abandons nuclear limits after US killing, AP
The blowback over the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general mounted Sunday as Iran announced it is abandoning the limits contained in the 2015 nuclear deal and Iraq’s Parliament called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil. The twin developments, if they come to pass, could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb and enable the Islamic State group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place […] Iranian state television cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country would not observe the nuclear deal’s restrictions on fuel enrichment, on the size of its enriched uranium stockpile and on its research and development activities.

Israel Lauds Suleimani Assassination, Though With Caution, New York Times
Before boarding a plane home, Mr. Netanyahu praised President Trump for “acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively — Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense,” he said […] The latest events have most likely provided a welcome distraction for Mr. Netanyahu. Though strong on security and hawkish on Iran, he was indicted in November in three corruption cases and is fighting for his survival. Before the American strike on Friday, the Israeli discourse was dominated by Mr. Netanyahu’s contentious request this week for parliamentary immunity from prosecution […] In a statement, Benny Gantz, a former military chief and now Mr. Netanyahu’s main political rival, described the assassination of General Suleimani as “the appropriate response to anyone responsible for the murder of countless innocent people and for undermining global stability.”

US Democratic contenders condemn Iran strike, warn of war, Reuters
Democratic presidential contenders on Friday condemned the air strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, saying President Donald Trump’s decision was reckless and could lead the United States to another war in the Middle East […] While the Democrats were united in condemning Trump’s decision, there were some distinctions in their responses. Biden and Buttigieg indicated they viewed Soleimani as a security threat who had sowed chaos in the region, whereas Sanders and Warren referred to him more neutrally and called his killing an “assassination.”


Solidarity March Against Anti-Semitism: Thousands Rally After Attacks, New York Times
Tens of thousands of people, some covered in Israeli flags and others singing Hebrew songs, poured into Lower Manhattan on Sunday in a show of solidarity for New York’s Jewish community in the wake of a spate of anti-Semitic attacks in the region in the last month.

Trump threatens to strike Iranian cultural sites and impose ‘very big’ sanctions on Iraq as tensions rise, Washington Post
Trump projected a wartime posture as he wrapped up his holiday vacation here, reiterating that if Iran took military action against the United States he may order attacks on Iranian cultural sites, which could constitute a war crime under international law. He vowed on Twitter to “quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner.”

Pelosi says House will introduce ‘War Power Resolution’ aimed to limit Trump’s Iran military action, CNN
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday sent a letter to Democratic members of Congress announcing the House will introduce and vote on a “War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran” amid rising tension. The resolution, Pelosi writes, “reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.”

Sanders, Khanna introduce legislation to block funding for a war with Iran, The Hill
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Friday introduced legislation that would block funding for any offensive military force in or against Iran without prior congressional authorization […] “Today, we are seeing a dangerous escalation that brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “A war with Iran could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars and lead to even more deaths, more conflict, more displacement in that already highly volatile region of the world.”

Israel braces for possible Iranian retaliation after Soleimani strike, Axios
Israeli officials say the country is bracing for possible Iranian retaliation after the U.S. killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani — and has started taking precautionary measures. Some Iranian officials mentioned Israel as a “co-conspirator” in Soleimani’s death alongside the U.S. Israeli officials say Iran could retaliate against Israel as part of any larger move against the U.S. by using their proxies in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Israelis quietly hail Soleimani killing as they brace for retaliation, Washington Post
Israel’s embassies around the world were put on heightened alert, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Greece to monitor the situation from Jerusalem. Businesses bustled as usual on the morning before the beginning of the Sabbath, but officials closed the Hermon ski area, a resort in the Golan Heights that has been targeted in the past by missiles fired from Syria.

Israel had advance notice of US plan to kill Iranian general Suleimani, report says, LA Times
“Our assessment is that the United States informed Israel about this operation in Iraq, apparently a few days ago,” Barak Ravid, a journalist and commentator with deep sources in the Israeli security establishment, said on Channel 13.

Pompeo defends American presence in Iraq as its parliament votes to oust US troops, Politico
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday defended the U.S. military’s presence in Iraq shortly before the Middle Eastern nation’s parliament voted to demand that foreign forces there withdraw following the death of an Iranian general in an American airstrike.

Hezbollah chief urges attacks, including suicide bombings, on US bases in region, Times of Israel
The leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization said on Sunday that the United States’ killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike in Iraq marked the start of a “new war” on the US in the Middle East.

Despite Hague Warnings, Israeli Panel to Discuss Annexing the Jordan Valley, Haaretz
An Israeli committee will convene Sunday to discuss the annexation of the Jordan Valley despite a warning by the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor. The panel is convening despite a warning by the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor that declarations on extending Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank could be used in an investigation into Israeli officials, if one were to open.

Netanyahu gives cabinet seat to another lawmaker facing bribery charges, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a series of high-level cabinet appointments on Sunday after being forced to drop all his ministerial posts due to the criminal charges against him.

Opinion and Analysis

Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After US Kills Popular General, New York Times
Farnaz Fassihi and Richard Pérez-Peña write, “The death of Qassim Suleimani strengthened the hand of hard-liners, experts say, and undermined those who have tried to normalize relations with the West.”

The Soleimani Strike Defied the U.S. Constitution, The Atlantic
Oona A. Hathaway writes, “If Congress fails to respond effectively, the constitutional order will be broken beyond repair, and the president will be left with the unmitigated power to take the country to war on his own—anywhere, anytime, for any reason.”

Trump plunges toward the kind of Middle Eastern conflict he pledged to avoid, Washington Post
Toluse Olorunnipa, Robert Costa and Anne Gearan write, “With a single momentous decision to authorize a drone strike killing a top Iranian commander in Baghdad, President Trump immediately thrust himself into the center of a volatile and unpredictable region — taking his presidency into just the kind of foreign entanglement he pledged to avoid.”

Trump Exploited Soleimani’s Mistake, and Netanyahu Gains the Most, Haaretz
Aluf Benn writes, “Like his predecessors over the last half-century, from Nixon to Obama, Trump discovered that the Middle East imposes itself on American foreign policy even when it is no longer dependent on oil from the region.”

Targeted killing of Soleimani a boost for Benjamin Netanyahu, The Jerusalem Post
Gil Hoffman writes, “While helping Netanyahu to remain prime minister was unlikely a consideration for Trump in deciding to eliminate the terrorist mastermind, the impact of the killing in Israel is undoubtedly positive for Netanyahu – at least for now. Netanyahu has an interest in keeping security issues, which are his strong suit, at the top of the public agenda.”

To Avert War With Iran, Trump Will Need All the Strong Nerves and Sophistication He Sorely Lacks, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “If the U.S. president was anyone other than Donald Trump, one could validly claim that the targeted assassination of Soleimani has made the world a safer place. With Trump at the helm, the opposite could be true.”

Iran’s military threat: The US can’t protect everything all the time, CNN
Brad Lendon writes, “Every US installation — even every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine — could be a target. Presumably that could also include US Navy ships at sea, US Air Force planes at airports or in the world’s skies, or even US troops enjoying themselves off base and off duty.”