White House says Iran did not provide early warning of Israel attack — and didn’t mean for it to fail

“The White House is strongly denying reports that Iran provided any advance warning of the massive aerial attack it sent towards Israel on Saturday, calling the suggestion that Tehran would have provided any information on its military plans “ridiculous”.
John Kirby, the president’s national security communications adviser, also took a page from President Joe Biden’s book of oft-used phrases by referring to reports of such warnings — through back channels or otherwise — as “malarkey”.

“We did receive messages from Iran, and they receive messages from us too, but there was never any message to us or to anyone else on the timeframe, the targets, or the type of response,” he said during a White House press briefing on Monday.

“I want to be clear, this whole narrative out there that Iran passed us a message with what they were going to do is ridiculous,” he later added.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/iran-attack-doesn-t-mean-155639859.html

Iran’s attack seemed planned to minimize casualties while maximizing spectacle

“Over 300 drones and missiles navigated above Iran’s neighbors, including Jordan and Iraq — both with US military bases — before penetrating the airspace of Iran’s mortal enemy, Israel. Israel’s allies helped shoot down the bulk of these weapons, but couldn’t prevent what was long believed to be the Middle East’s doomsday scenario, the Islamic Republic’s first-ever attack on Israel.
Israel’s fabled Iron Dome air defense system did not disappoint Israelis, many of whom took to bunkers. Only a small handful of locations were attacked, including a military base and an area in the Negev desert, injuring a Bedouin child, while the dome fended off one of the largest drone attacks in history

Yet it was an operation that seemed designed to fail — when Iran launched its killer drones from its own territory some 1,000 miles away, it was giving Israel hours of advance notice.

The symbolism of the attack did the heavy lifting. Rather than fire from one of the neighboring countries where Iran and its non-state allies are present, this was a direct attack from Iranian territory on Israeli territory. This compromised Iran’s ability to damage Israel because it robbed the operation of the element of surprise.

Yet for some four hours, the world held its breath as weapons whizzed through the night sky. They were balls of fire hovering overhead as onlookers across three different countries filmed images that seemed to harken the start of a cataclysmic war.”

“The strike served as a retaliation against the Israeli airstrikes on Iran’s consulate in Damascus earlier in April that killed a top commander, and it was in keeping with US intelligence and analysts’ expectations. Iran’s leadership felt compelled to strike Israel in order to reiterate its position as a regional powerhouse and to dispel notions of it as a paper tiger. It doubled down on its show of force by launching the operation from its own territory and not by proxy in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen or Iraq.

Yet Iran also needed to try to avoid sparking an all-out war. Its economy has buckled under the weight of Trump-era sanctions, and there is growing discontent on its streets over the government’s repressive policies. On Sunday, Iran appeared not only to have factored in Israel’s robust air defense systems, but to have relied on it. The relatively high degree of US intelligence about the operation also suggests Iran may have engaged in back-channelling with Western leaders. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said he gave neighboring countries, including major US allies, 72-hour notice. To contain the fall-out of their own operation, they appeared intent to foil it.

The style of attack is reminiscent of Tehran’s response to former President Donald Trump’s targeted killing of Iran’s most storied general, Qassem Soleimani, in January 2020. Tehran gave US troops 10 hours of advance warning before raining down massive ballistic missiles on US military positions in Iraq, including al-Asad airbase. The attack wreaked havoc, leaving gaping craters in the ground, but caused no known US casualties. In the process, Iranian forces accidentally shot down a commercial jet taking off from Tehran airport, killing over 100 passengers and fuelling public anger against a regime increasingly seen as incompetent.

At the time, the Iranians were preoccupied with demonstrating what their military could do, rather than what it was willing to do. The US did not retaliate, averting regional war.

Four years later, Iran’s playbook may not unfold in the same way. Israel has already vowed to respond. The US has publicly stated it would not participate in an Israeli retaliation, which may reassure Iran. Yet Netanyahu’s Israel has proven increasingly unpredictable. Iran’s threats of more severe action in case of further escalation may fall on deaf ears in Israel, to its own peril.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/iran-attack-seemed-planned-minimize-145547869.html

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seizes a container ship near Strait of Hormuz amid tensions with Israel

“Iran since 2019 has engaged in a series of ship seizures and attacks on vessels have been attributed to it amid ongoing tensions with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear program.
Since November, Iran had dialed back its ship attacks as the Houthis targeted ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Houthi attacks have slowed in recent weeks as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan ended and the rebels have faced months of U.S.-led airstrikes targeting them.

In previous seizures, Iran has offered initial explanations about their operations to make it seem like the attacks had nothing to do with the wider geopolitical tensions — though later acknowledging as much. In Saturday’s attack, however, Iran telling offered no explanation for the seizure other than to say the MSC Aries had links to Israel.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/british-military-warns-possible-vessel-081956588.html

The Supreme Court just handed Trump an astonishing victory

“The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Trump’s DC criminal trial, the one concerning his attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election, must be delayed for at least another two months. The Court already effectively delayed his trial for an additional two and a half months in an order handed down last December.
This order is a colossal victory for Trump, and could potentially allow him to evade criminal responsibility for his attempts to overthrow the 2020 election altogether. Trump’s goal is to delay his trials until after Election Day. Should he prevail in that election, he can then order the Justice Department to drop all federal charges against him.

Trump was able to secure such an order from the justices by exploiting the fact that the federal judiciary ordinarily does not allow two different courts to have jurisdiction over the same case at the same time. So, when a party to a lawsuit or criminal proceeding appeals a trial court’s decision, the trial court often loses authority over that case until the appeal is resolved.

The ostensible reason for the Court’s order putting the trial on ice is that the Court needs that time to consider a weak appeal challenging a ruling by Judge Tanya Chutkan, the judge presiding over his DC criminal trial.

According to Trump, the Constitution forbids any prosecution of a former president for any “official acts” he engaged in while in office. The implications of this argument are astounding, and Trump’s lawyers haven’t exactly tried to hide them. During one court hearing, the former president’s lawyer told a judge that Trump could not be prosecuted even if he had ordered “SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival,” unless Trump were also impeached and convicted by the Senate.”

“Yet Trump has now, with Wednesday’s ruling, leveraged this ridiculous legal argument to delay his DC trial for at least four and a half months, and the delay will likely extend much longer because the Court will need time to produce an opinion. The Court will hear oral arguments in late April.

Simply put, Wednesday’s order is a disaster for anyone hoping that Trump may face trial before the November election. And, because the nominal reason for this order is to give the justices more time to decide if the president is completely above the law, this decision raises serious doubts about whether this Court can be trusted to oversee Trump-related cases in a nonpartisan manner.”

https://www.vox.com/scotus/2024/2/28/24086046/supreme-court-donald-trump-sabotage-delay-dc-trial-judge-chutkan

Who Decides Whether Trump Can Run, and What Sort of Evidence Suffices?

“”The mob was seeking to halt or overturn a core constitutional function at the seat of government, which can reasonably be described as an attempt to replace law with force,” Magliocca wrote. Furthermore, the criminal charges against some of the rioters indicated that they “intended to inflict bodily harm on members of Congress, which can be reasonably understood as a direct attack on the legislative branch itself and, more generally, the existing government.””

https://reason.com/2023/12/29/who-decides-whether-trump-can-run-and-what-sort-of-evidence-suffices/

Biden says US ‘shall respond’ after drone strike by Iran-backed group kills 3 US troops in Jordan

“President Joe Biden said Sunday that the U.S. “shall respond” after three American troops were killed and dozens more were injured in an overnight drone strike in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border. Biden blamed Iran-backed militias for the first U.S. fatalities after months of strikes by such groups against American forces across the Middle East since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Biden, who was traveling in South Carolina, asked for a moment of silence during an appearance at a Baptist church’s banquet hall.

“We had a tough day last night in the Middle East. We lost three brave souls in an attack on one of our bases,” he said. After the moment of silence, Biden added, “and we shall respond.”

With an increasing risk of military escalation in the region, U.S. officials were working to conclusively identify the precise group responsible for the attack, but they have assessed that one of several Iranian-backed groups was behind it.

Biden said in a written statement that the United States “will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner (of) our choosing.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said “we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our troops, and our interests.””

https://www.yahoo.com/news/biden-three-americans-killed-many-164752549.html

Massive Attack On Al Assad Air Base In Iraq, Airstrikes Hit Houthi Missiles (Updated)

“Al Assad Air Base in Iraq, where U.S. military personnel and contractors are based, came under a massive barrage from Iranian-aligned militant groups in the country. The attack was so big that reports state it overwhelmed Al Assad’s air defenses, with multiple projectiles landing within its permitter, causing injuries.”

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which is a blanket moniker for a number of groups hostile to the U.S. and Israel over the war in Gaza, claimed responsibility for the attack. It caused minor injuries to U.S. personnel and seriously injured one Iraqi.

“The U.S. has around 2,500 troops in Iraq as part of the anti-ISIS mission there. This would be the 58th attack on U.S. facilities in Iraq since the war between Israel and Gaza lit off after Hamas’s cross-border terror attacks on October 7th, according to Reuters.”

“in and around the Red Sea, it seems clear now that the U.S. is carrying out a sustained hunt aimed at striking the Houthi’s anti-ship weapons prior to launch. Yet another round of preemptive air strikes were carried out yesterday, with three missiles being destroyed.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/massive-attack-al-assad-air-214819320.html

Was the Capitol Riot an ‘Insurrection,’ and Did Trump ‘Engage in’ It?

“Trump’s misconduct included his refusal to accept Biden’s victory, his persistent peddling of his stolen-election fantasy, his pressure on state and federal officials to embrace that fantasy, the incendiary speech he delivered to his supporters before the riot, and his failure to intervene after a couple thousand of those supporters invaded the Capitol, interrupting the congressional ratification of the election results. All of that was more than enough to conclude that Trump had egregiously violated his oath to “faithfully execute” his office and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” It was more than enough to justify his conviction for high crimes and misdemeanors in the Senate, which would have prevented him from running for president again.”

“”At oral argument,” the opinion notes, “President Trump’s counsel, while not providing a specific definition, argued that an insurrection is more than a riot but less than a rebellion. We agree that an insurrection falls along a spectrum of related conduct.” But the court does not offer “a specific definition” either: “It suffices for us to conclude that any definition of ‘insurrection’ for purposes of Section Three would encompass a concerted and public use of force or threat of force by a group of people to hinder or prevent the U.S. government from taking the actions necessary to accomplish a peaceful transfer of power in this country.”
That description suggests a level of intent and coordination that seems at odds with the chaotic reality of the Capitol riot. Some rioters were members of groups, such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, that thought the use of force was justified to keep Trump in office. But even in those cases, federal prosecutors had a hard time proving a specific conspiracy to “hinder or prevent the U.S. government from taking the actions necessary to accomplish a peaceful transfer of power” by interrupting the electoral vote tally on January 6. And the vast majority of rioters seem to have acted spontaneously, with no clear goal in mind other than expressing their outrage at an election outcome they believed was the product of massive fraud.

They believed that, of course, because that is what Trump told them. But to the extent that Trump bears moral and political responsibility for riling them up with his phony grievance (which he does), his culpability hinges on the assumption that the rioters acted impulsively and emotionally in the heat of the moment. That understanding is hard to reconcile with the Colorado Supreme Court’s premise that Trump’s hotheaded supporters acted in concert with the intent of forcibly preventing “a peaceful transfer of power.”

Nor is it clear that Trump “engaged in” the “insurrection” that the court perceives. After reviewing dictionary definitions and the views of Henry Stanbery, the U.S. attorney general when the 14th Amendment was debated, the majority concludes that “‘engaged in’ requires ‘an overt and voluntary act, done with the intent of aiding or furthering the common unlawful purpose.'”

Trump’s pre-riot speech was reckless because it was foreseeable that at least some people in his audience would be moved to go beyond peaceful protest. Some 2,000 of the 50,000 or so supporters he addressed that day (around 4 percent) participated in the assault on the Capitol. But that does not necessarily mean Trump intended that result. In concluding that he did, the court interprets Trump’s demand that his supporters “fight like hell” to “save our democracy” literally rather than figuratively. It also notes that he repeatedly urged them to march toward the Capitol. As the court sees it, that means Trump “literally exhorted his supporters to fight at the Capitol.”

The justices eventually concede that Trump, who never explicitly called for violence, said his supporters would be “marching to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” But they discount that phrasing as cover for Trump’s actual intent. Given Trump’s emphasis on the necessity of “fight[ing] like hell” to avert the disaster that would result if Biden were allowed to take office, they say, the implicit message was that the use of force was justified. In support of that conclusion, the court cites Chapman University sociologist Peter Simi, who testified that “Trump’s speech took place in the context of a pattern of Trump’s knowing ‘encouragement and promotion of violence,'” which he accomplished by “develop[ing] and deploy[ing] a shared coded language with his violent supporters.”

That seems like a pretty speculative basis for concluding that Trump intentionally encouraged his supporters to attack the Capitol. Given what we know about Trump, it is perfectly plausible that, unlike any reasonably prudent person, he was heedless of the danger that his words posed in this context.”

“The Colorado Supreme Court’s belief that Trump intentionally caused a riot also figures in its rejection of his argument that his January 6 speech was protected by the First Amendment. The relevant standard here comes from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which involved a Klansman who was convicted of promoting terrorism and criminal syndicalism. Under Brandenburg, even advocacy of illegal conduct is constitutionally protected unless it is both “directed” at inciting “imminent lawless action” and “likely” to do so.

The Colorado Supreme Court quotes the 6th Circuit’s elucidation of that test in the 2015 case Bible Believers v. Wayne County: “The Brandenburg test precludes speech from being sanctioned as incitement to riot unless (1) the speech explicitly or implicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action, (2) the speaker intends that his speech will result in the use of violence or lawless action, and (3) the imminent use of violence or lawless action is the likely result of his speech.”

It is hard to deny that Trump’s speech satisfies the third prong, which is why it provoked so much well-deserved criticism and rightly figured in his impeachment. But what about the other two prongs?

Applying the first prong, the court cites “the general atmosphere of political violence that President Trump created before January 6” as well as the “coded language” of his speech that day. As evidence of the “specific intent” required by the second prong, it notes that “federal agencies that President Trump oversaw identified threats of violence ahead of January 6.” It also cites what it takes to be the implicit message of Trump’s speech and his reluctance to intervene after the riot started.

“President Trump intended that his speech would result in the use of violence or lawless action on January 6 to prevent the peaceful transfer of power,” the court says. “Despite his knowledge of the anger that he had instigated, his calls to arms, his awareness of the threats of violence that had been made leading up to January 6, and the obvious fact that many in the crowd were angry and armed, President Trump told his riled-up supporters to walk down to the Capitol and fight. He then stood back and let the fighting happen, despite having the ability and authority to stop it (with his words or by calling in the military), thereby confirming that this violence was what he intended.””

https://reason.com/2023/12/21/was-the-capitol-riot-an-insurrection-and-did-trump-engage-in-it/

This week in Bidenomics: US airstrikes target inflation, too

“The Middle East war is widening, but that may be better than the alternative: new inflationary pressure from an obscure fundamentalist militia 8,000 miles from US shores.
The US and UK militaries finally struck back at Houthi forces in Yemen on Jan. 11 and 12, in response to at least 27 Houthi attacks on commercial ships navigating the Red Sea between northern Africa and Saudi Arabia. There were legitimate military reasons for the retaliatory strikes, given that the Houthis have targeted US and allied forces, including Israel. But there was a powerful economic incentive too: The attacks on commercial vessels were starting to drive up shipping costs and threatening to reignite inflation, just as the Biden administration feels it is finally taming the biggest barrier to a second term for President Biden.

The Red Sea is a crucial shipping lane because the Suez Canal, at its northern tip, connects waters that serve Western markets with the Indian Ocean and routes to Asia. Ships unable to transit the Red Sea need to take the much longer and costlier journey around the southern tip of Africa. About 15% of world trade transits the area.”

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/this-week-in-bidenomics-us-airstrikes-target-inflation-too-191234965.html

Escalation in the Red Sea

“”the [Biden] administration declassified intelligence indicating that Iranian paramilitary groups were coordinating the Houthi attacks, providing targeting information about commercial shipping passing through the waterway and the Suez Canal.””

https://reason.com/2024/01/02/escalation-in-the-red-sea/