News Roundup for January 8, 2020

January 8, 2020

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Top News and Analysis

Iran Fires on U.S. Forces at 2 Bases in Iraq, Calling It ‘Fierce Revenge’, New York Times
Iran attacked two bases in Iraq that house American troops with a barrage of missiles early Wednesday, Iranian official news media and United States officials said, fulfilling Tehran’s promise to retaliate for the killing of a top Iranian commander. “The fierce revenge by the Revolutionary Guards has begun,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said in a statement on a Telegram messaging app channel. Iraqi military officials said that Iran had fired 22 missiles at two military bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed. United States officials initially said there were no immediate indications of American casualties, and senior Iraqi officials later said that there were no American or Iraqi casualties in the strikes.

Trump says ‘all is well’ following Iran missile strike, Reuters
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that “all is well” following a retaliatory Iranian missile attack on U.S.-led forces and that he would make a statement on the situation on Wednesday morning.


Iran hits U.S. bases in Iraq, warns escalation would reach Israel, JTA
“Iran is warning that if there is retaliation for the two waves of attacks they launched their third wave will destroy Dubai and Haifa,” Ali Arouzi, NBC’s Tehran correspondent, reported on Twitter, where he was relaying official comments from Iran’s state media. The U.S. Sixth Fleet often docks in Haifa.

Democrats Press for Details on Suleimani Strike, but Trump Administration Gives Few, New York Times
Under increasing pressure to defend the killing of a top Iranian general in Iraq, senior Trump administration officials offered new justifications but little detail on Tuesday, citing threats to the American Embassy in Baghdad and intelligence suggesting other imminent attacks that helped prompt the strike.

World reacts after Iran fires missiles at US targets in Iraq, Al Jazeera
As tension increases, governments around the world are calling for a return to diplomacy and considering plans to withdraw their citizens.

Ukrainian passenger jet carrying over 170 people crashes in Iran, killing all on board, Washington Post
A Ukrainian passenger jet carrying more than 170 people crashed in Iran early Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s main international airport, killing all aboard, officials said.

Publishing Trump’s Peace Plan Before Israeli Election Would Be ‘Outright Intervention,’ Gantz Says, Haaretz
A U.S. release of its Mideast peace plan before the Israeli election would constitute an intervention in its political process, Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief rival, said on Wednesday.

Palestinians face mounting barriers to peaceful protest, AP
Joseph Krauss and Mohammed Daraghmeh writes, “Abdullah Abu Rahma has been arrested by Israeli soldiers eight times in the last 15 years, spending weeks or months in prison and paying tens of thousands of dollars in fines for organizing protests. He’s among a growing number of Palestinians who have embraced non-violent means of protesting Israel’s military rule and expanding settlements, and who are increasingly finding those avenues of dissent blocked.”

Britain condemns Israel’s plans to build 2,000 new settlements in West Bank, The National
Commenting on the planned construction, Andrew Murrison, Britain’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “The UK condemns the Israeli government’s advancement of yet more plans for over 1,900 housing units across the West Bank.”

US won’t grant Iran foreign minister visa for UN visit, AP
The U.S. won’t issue Iran’s foreign minister a visa to travel to the United Nations later this week, contending there was not enough time to process the request.

Chief rabbi: Immigrants from former Soviet Union are ‘religion-hating gentiles’, Times of Israel
The Sephardic chief rabbi came under fire Tuesday morning, including from the prime minister, after it was revealed he had referred to immigrants from the former Soviet Union as “religion-hating gentiles.”

Opinion and Analysis

Killing of Iran general risks US gains against Islamic State, AP
Robert Burns writes, “Two days after Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad, the U.S. troops in Iraq to fight the Islamic State are now focused on their own defense, guarding American bases and the U.S. Embassy from an expected Iranian response. The fight against the militants is now on hold, and a Trump foreign policy achievement is in doubt.”

Can America Win an Unconventional War Against Iran?, Haaretz
Daniel Levy asks, “America has the big guns: but Iran is a master of unconventional warfare. Could Tehran repeat the many successes of its asymmetric, proxy-based warfare if conflict with the U.S. escalates?”

A Strategy for the Mideast That Has Even Trump’s Allies Scratching Their Heads, New York Times
Peter Baker writes, “Conflicting statements, crossed signals and mixed messages have left the president and his top officials scrambling to explain his mission and goals after the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.”

Amid confusion and contradictions, Trump White House stumbles in initial public response to Soleimani’s killing, Washington Post
David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey write, “President Trump has sought to demonstrate strong and decisive leadership in the targeted killing of Iran’s top general, but he has overseen a chaotic and mistake-prone public response since the operation — raising questions over the administration’s preparation to anticipate and deal with the consequences.”

Sanctions on Ramallah, Deal With Hamas: Israel’s Risky Message to Palestinians, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Israel is perpetuating a problem here. Not only is it signaling to the Palestinians that the path taken by Hamas, which has insisted on fighting Israel militarily, pays off better, but also that Israel is continuing to flagellate the PA, which officially at least is still declaring its support for achieving an agreement by peaceful means.”

Budgets, 3rd election, immunity, 4th election? Political dates to watch in 2020, Times of Israel
Raoul Wootliff and Jacob Magid write, “Last month, as the Knesset Arrangements Committee voted on a bill that set March 2 as the date for Israel’s third election within a year, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi suggested that lawmakers write into the legislation the date for a fourth election, which could already be calculated to fall on August 11. He may have been being facetious (and it appears he was wrong in his calculation), but by finalizing the third election date, MKs automatically set in place much of the year’s political calendar. This includes both the run-up to the election and its aftermath, and indeed the approximate date for a fourth national vote if no government is formed after the third.”

Letter: With assassination, Trump moves dangerously toward war, St Louis Post-Dispatch
J Street Chapter Chair Neil Jaffe writes, “Since the president’s disastrous decision to unilaterally cancel the Iran nuclear agreement and implement a so-called ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, Iran has only become more dangerous and aggressive. Hardliners in Iran have been strengthened at the expense of moderates, and the region has been further destabilized. The president and his saber-rattling advisers bear tremendous responsibility for the current crisis. Our allies in Israel and the Middle East and millions of civilians risk being caught in the crossfire.”

Attacks on Jewish community threaten our most basic democratic values, The Forward
Alcee L. Hastings and Michael Balaban write, “We must challenge this vile hatred through individual actions and collective unity. The responsibility is on each of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, to find ways to stamp out hatred, change course and bridge what divides our nation.”