U.S. Strike Kills Powerful Iranian General

Streaking out of the early morning darkness on January 3 a U.S. drone strike killed the second-most powerful man in Iran — IRGC General Qasem Soleimani. Nine others died along with him, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, de facto leader of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces. The strike occurred as Soleimani was leaving Bagdad’s International Airport. Soleimani was widely considered the second most-powerful man in Iran, behind only supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His death dramatically escalated tensions between the U.S. and Tehran. The Pentagon confirmed that U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the strike after a pro-Iranian mob besieged the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The Pentagon also said that Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that Soleimani was as dangerous as former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Post-strike, Trump tweeted an image of a U.S. flag. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

More Reported by Fox News. Read more…

More Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Further reported by i24 News. Read more…

(saying drone carried out precision strike and that thousands in Tehran took to the streets to protest against America). The Guardian has produced a visual guide to the strike, here.

The strike was so thorough that Soleimani’s remains had to be identified by a ring he wore. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

At the same time, the U.S. attempted to kill another top Iranian general, Abdul Reza Shahlai, also a member of the elite Quds Force (which Soleimani led) in Yemen. Had the strike succeeded, it would have dealt a double blow to the Quds Force, an elite branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which manages Iran’s ties to proxy groups such as the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq and, of course, Hezbollah. Reported by USA Today. Read more…

Brigadier General Esmail Qaani was named as Soleimani’s replacement. Qaani had served as the slain general’s deputy commander since 1997. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Worldwide reaction was mixed. Former national security advisor John Bolton praised the move, saying it was a “decisive blow against Iran’s malign Quds Forces activities worldwide.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praised Trump’s action. Netanyahu said that “Israel has the right to self-defense. The US has the exact same right. Soleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Israel prepared for a possible Iranian response to the attack that killed Soleimani. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

On the other side of the ledger, France’s deputy foreign minister, Amélie de Montchalin said that “we have woken up to a more dangerous world.” Russia blasted the attack, calling it “an adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region.” Reported by France24. Read more…

Agnès Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killing, said that Soleimani’s killing likely violated international law. Callamard tweeted that “outside the context of active hostilities, the use of drones or other means for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal.” She said that individual involvement in past terrorist attacks is not enough to make targeting Soleimani lawful. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Trump had “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.” His fellow Democratic hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders warned the attack could spark a disastrous new war in the Middle East. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

 

Iran Retaliates

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s killing. Khamenei tweeted, “Martyrdom was the reward for his ceaseless efforts in all these years … With him gone, God willing, his work and his path will not be stopped, but severe revenge awaits the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood and other martyrs’ in last night’s incident.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Perhaps it was a New Year’s Day taunt by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that figured in the strike. After Trump warned that Iran would be held fully responsible for lives lost at U.S. facilities abroad, Khamenei fired back on Twitter, saying, “You can’t do anything.” Two days later Soleimani was dead. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

For his part, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said his nation would “take revenge for this heinous crime” But, speaking on Fox & Friends, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “I think the Iranian leadership understands President Trump will take action. … We made very clear that these responses would be swift and decisive. We have now demonstrated that. I hope the Iranian leadership will see that and see American resolve and that their decision will be to de-escalate and take actions consistent with what normal nations do. In the event that they do not and they go in the other direction, I know that President Trump and the entire United States government is prepared to respond appropriately” Reported by Fox News.Read more…

At least 56 people were crushed to death in crowds during the funeral ceremony for Soleimani, and more than 200 were injured. His funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of mourners in his home city of Kerman. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

The killing sparked fears of World War III, and discussions of a widening conflict trended on social media, as well as generating several news articles. Reported by The Express. Read more…

More Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

After Soleimani was killed and Iran threatened retaliation, the U.S embassy in Baghdad recommended that U.S. citizens leave Iraq. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Additionally, the international coalition fighting the Islamic State suspended operations so that it could focus on protecting U.S., U.K., and other coalition troops at bases in Iraq. Ironically, the announcement came minutes before Iraq’s parliament voted to expel U.S. troops. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Iran’s military said it was prepared to use medium and long-range missiles to attack U.S. bases in the Middle East, in revenge for Soleimani’s death. U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the U.S. was prepared for retaliation, telling CNN, “We’re prepared for the worst. We hope that cooler heads in Tehran will prevail and de-escalate the situation … We are not looking to start a war with Iran but we are prepared to finish one … What we would like to see is the situation de-escalated and for Tehran to sit down with us and begin a discussion about a better way ahead.” Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Iran did attempt to retaliate several days later, firing over a dozen missiles at the Al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province and the Irbil base in northern Iraq. No personnel were killed or injured in the attack. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Although the Pentagon believes the missiles fired at the airbases were meant to kill U.S. soldiers, they failed due to early warning systems. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that “I believe based on what I saw and what I know is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel.” He said that “a little bit of early warning” and “normal defensive procedures” saved American lives. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the strikes “a slap in the face” for the US. He further warned that Iran’s wider goal remained – to expel the U.S. from the region. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, confirmed Khamenei’s sentiment, saying that the “final answer” to the killing of Soleimani would be to “kick all US forces out of the region.” Iran’s foreign minister, Javid Zarif tweeted that Iran “took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense” by striking only the bases from where the drones targeting Soleimani were launched. Zarif also said that “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.” Later, President Trump said that Iran “appears to be standing down.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Saudi Arabia condemned the Iranian missile attack on bases in Iraq, saying Tehran had violated Iraqi sovereignty. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Speaking to the nation about the situation, President Trump took a pot shot at former president Barack Obama, saying money Obama paid Iran was used to buy the missiles fired at the U.S. bases. Speaking from the White House, Trump said, “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Sen. Ted Cruz, R., Texas, agrees with Trump. Speaking to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Cruz said the Obama administration’s policy of appeasing Iran further empowered the regime. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

A transcript of Trump’s remarks to the nation can be found here.

More Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

More Reported by Fox News. Read more…

More Reported by Reuters. Read more…

Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, said Congress was not told in advance of the strike that killed Soleimani. She criticized Trump’s decision, saying “We cannot put the lives of American service members, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions … Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America — and the world — cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.” Reported by The Hill. Read more…

To counter Trump in the future, the House began preparing legislation to further limit the President’s war powers. Reported by Fox News.Read more…

Representative voted on the 9th to approve the new bill by a vote of 224-194. Three Republicans crossed party lines to vote in favor of the legislation, while eight Democrats voted against it. The bill calls on Trump to “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran” unless Congress first approves it or enacts specific legislation approving the use of force. There was significant debate of the bill’s effectiveness, and Republicans in the Senate have called it meaningless. Reported by CNN. Read more…

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden had advice and criticism for Trump after the attacks on U.S. bases, saying, “I just pray to God as [Trump] goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case.” Biden called Trump “dangerously incompetent” and said he was on the verge of leading the U.S. into another war in the Middle East. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Trump slammed the non-binding House war powers resolution during a campaign rally in Ohio, suggesting that House Democrats would have would have tipped the media to the strike had they known about it. He also said that Soleimani was planning new attacks and looking seriously at U.S. embassies as potential targets. Reported by Fox News.Read more…

After the attack on the U.S. airbases, the Trump administration slapped more sanctions on Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, discussing the sanctions, said, “The goal of our campaign is to deny the regime the resources to conduct its destructive foreign policy.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

176 Killed After Iran Erroneously Shoots Down Ukrainian Passenger Jet

Soon after retaliatory strikes were launched by Iran against U.S. bases in Iraq, a Ukrainian jetliner carrying 176 passengers and crew crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran. The flight was bound for Ukraine’s capital of Kiev. Iranian officials claimed they suspected a technical issue with the Boeing 737-800 was the cause of the crash. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran refused, however, to hand over the plane’s black boxes, saying it had not decided which country or international authority to send the black box to have its data to be analyzed. Three Britons, three Germans, 63 Canadians, 10 Swedes, 11 Ukrainians, 82 Iranians and four Afghans were killed in the crash. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

A Southern California doctoral student and her mother and sister were reportedly among those killed when a passenger jet was shot down. They were reportedly visiting relatives in Iran. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. carriers from operating in airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf of Oman, and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

More Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The truth about the crash soon began to emerge as Pentagon officials told Fox news the plane was shot down by mistake by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile. “An absolute tragedy,” one official told Fox News. “They just screwed up and it is tragic.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

More Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Despite U.S. revelations, Iran continued to deny the plane was brought down by an accidental missile strike. Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s national aviation department, said that “What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane.” He also challenged the U.S. and Canada (which also said the plane was brought down by an Iranian missile) “should come and show their findings to the world.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Although Iran invited the Ukraine, France, and Boeing to join in the investigation into the crash, it continued its heated rhetoric toward the United States. Ali Rabiei, a spokesperson for the Rouhani administration, said that “We advise the U.S. government to wait for the results of the accident investigation committee of the Ukrainian plane crash instead of spreading lie and carrying out their psychological operation … It’s unfortunate that the U.S. government and its conscious or unaware companions add salt to the injury of families of the victims in the Iran plane crash by spreading lies and are ready to sacrifice the families of the victims to serve their own goals.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran’s claims of non-involvement were undercut by a video released by the New York Times. The video, shot by an unidentified Iranian citizen, shows the plane being struck by what appears to be a surface-to-air missile. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Iranian authorities arrested the person who recorded the video. A London-based journalist, however, who posted the individual’s video, says Iran has arrested the wrong person. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

A second video caught by a security camera shows that two missiles struck the plane. The first missile did not down the aircraft. The plane turned and was attempting to return to the airport when the second missile hit it, causing it to explode. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

As evidence mounted, Iran finally admitted it had accidentally shot the plane down. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard aerospace division, told Iranian television that his unit accepted “full responsibility” for shooting down the plane. He said that when he learned what happened, “I wished I was dead.” Predictably, Iran’s foreign minister blamed the U.S. “A sad day,” Javad Zarif tweeted, “Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster. Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran later announced that it had arrested those responsible for accidentally shooting down the plane. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said that anyone involved in the “painful and unforgivable” mishap “should be punished.” Rouhani said that “The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts” He also stated that “This is not an ordinary case. The entire world will be watching this court.” He also admitted that responsibility “falls on more than just one person.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Protesters throughout Iran flocked to the streets on the Saturday following the downing of the jetliner, calling for regime change. Iranians expressing anger towards the government after Tehran admitted to accidentally shooting down the airliner and killing 176 passengers and crew. As many as a thousand protesters tore up pictures of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in the streets of Tehran, while others chanted, “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The following Tuesday, Iranian authorities arrested over thirty protesters at Tehran University. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Meanwhile, Iranian journalists at Iranian state-owned media outlets have resigned in the wake of the crash, with one apologizing for “the 13 years I told you lies.” TV anchor Gelare Jabbari spoke to her viewers through Instagram, saying, “It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Trump issued a stark warning to Iran. Trump tweeted, “To the leaders of Iran – DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS … Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching.” Trump added, “Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!” Protesters have even demanded the resignation of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Reported by Fox News.Read more…

Some Democrats also appeared to lay blame for the plane’s crash at the feet of Donald Trump. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said, “If what is being projected is true, this is yet another example of collateral damage from the actions that have been taken in a provocative way by the president of the United States.” Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was more direct, tweeting, “Innocent civilians are now dead because they were caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat.” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, also a presidential candidate, said, “I think this is a very, very unfortunate incident that has affected so many people and so many families, and this is one of these consequences of this escalation and this state of war that we are in.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the tragic downing of the jetliner was due to increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran. “I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” Trudeau said in an interview. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

 

Turkey’s Parliament Approves Boots On The Ground in Libya

Turkey’s parliament has passed a bill approving a military deployment to Libya. The deployment is aimed at supporting the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, the Government of National Accord (GNA). The GNA is under siege by the forces of Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar is backed by Turkey’s rivals Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Infighting Within Likud As MKs Want Committee To Discuss and Vote on Immunity for PM

In a blow to Netanyahu, Eyal Yinon, legal advisor to the Knesset, issued a report saying that although Israel was currently ruled by a transition government, nothing prevented the formation of a committee to discuss and vote on Netanyahu’s request for immunity. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, announced that he would decide on whether to approve forming a committee to discuss Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity. He was waiting on an additional opinion by Yinon on whether he could block the formation of the committee. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Alas for Netanyahu, it was not to be. Attempts to get Israel’s high court to block the report fell on deaf ears. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Edelstein decided to allow a vote to go forward regarding formation of the committee. Netanyahu was reportedly fuming over the decision. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Members of the Knesset Arrangements Committed voted in favor of establishing the committee to debate the immunity request. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Security Cabinet Withholds Palestinian Taxes Over Stipends to Terrorists’ Families

Israel’s security cabinet has voted to deduct $43 million from Palestinian tax revenues for stipends paid by the Palestinian Authority to the families of terrorists who perpetrate attacks against Israel. The proposal was raised by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett. The PA’s payment of the stipends has been a long-running issue between Israel and the PA. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Additionally, Netanyahu announced that Israel would be releasing two Syrian prisoners as a gesture of good will in return for Syria repatriating the remains of IDF solder Zacharia Baumel, who was killed in the First Lebanon War in 1982. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Gaza Terrorists, IDF Trade Fire

Four rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on January 15; the first attack since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. The IDF tweeted, “Four rockets were just fired from Gaza at Israel. Two rockets were intercepted mid-air by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

In response, the IDF struck Hamas terror targets in Gaza. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

King Abdullah II Warns Against Annexing West Bank

King Abdullah II of Jordan warned that if Israel annexes the West Bank, hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would die. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to annex large swaths of the West Bank if re-elected. Jordan’s king also warned U.S. and Iran that a war between the two nations would wreak “untold chaos” on the world. Reported by i24 News.  Read more…

Israel Begins Exporting Natural Gas to Egypt

Israel will begin exporting natural gas to Egypt as of January, a historic milestone. The Israeli and Egyptian energy ministries made a rare joint announcement, calling it “an important development” for both nations that would “enable Israel to export some of its natural gas to Europe via Egypt’s gas liquefaction plants, and promote Egypt’s status as a regional gas hub.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…