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.”


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.”


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.”


Israel is struggling to find and kill the top Hamas commanders it wants most

More than six months after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, Israel is still fighting the militants in Gaza.

The IDF has managed to kill some of Hamas’ top commanders, but it continues to hunt down others.

These individuals are likely hiding underground, a top White House official said last month.”


Israel-Palestine Debate: Finkelstein, Destiny, M. Rabbani & Benny Morris | Lex Fridman Podcast #418

Israel-Palestine Debate: Finkelstein, Destiny, M. Rabbani & Benny Morris | Lex Fridman Podcast #418


Israeli Civilian Harm Mitigation in Gaza: Gold Standard or Fool’s Gold?

“This gives us a minimum number of civilian war deaths of approximately 15,700. Based on 29,000 airstrikes, this leads to an average of 54 civilians killed per 100 attacks.
How does this compare to other operations? A roughly comparable operation where we have similar data is urban operations in Raqqa, Syria, against the Islamic State. In the Raqqa operation, according to DOD reporting, there were 178 civilian deaths and 10,663 airstrikes—an average of 1.7 civilian deaths per 100 attacks. This number for Raqqa was not considered to be good—never mind a gold standard. In fact, there was so much concern about the levels of civilian harm and destruction in Raqqa that DOD conducted an independent assessment of civilian harm (disclaimer: I was a member of the team that authored the report). The findings of this assessment contributed to the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan (CHMR-AP) directed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. In the report, we also mention that this DoD estimate is likely low. For example, our study team considered the Airwars estimate of 744 civilian deaths to be more realistic. This yields a higher average of 7.0 civilian deaths per 100 attacks.

Despite the alarm over the high rate of civilian deaths in Raqqa, one finds the minimum equivalent in Gaza—54 civilians killed in 100 attacks—is eight times greater than the Airwars-based estimate and 32 times greater than the DOD estimate. And recall that 54 is a lower bound for the Gaza ratio; it is likely far higher than this. Just as miners in California could see the appearance of iron pyrite—fool’s gold—and think they had struck the real thing, it is possible to look at the IDF’s precautionary measures and at first glance think they are practicing civilian harm mitigation. But whether evaluating the IDF’s performance on its process or its results, it fails to qualify as a gold standard.”


Israeli settlements expand by record amount, UN rights chief says

” Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories have expanded by a record amount and risk eliminating any practical possibly of a Palestinian state, the U.N. human rights chief”