UK refuses to rule out military action against Iran
The Times reports that UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, refused to rule out a British military strike on Iran as he said that helicopters and warships had been placed on standby in the Middle East.
BBC News, The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, Huffington Post UK, Associated Press and Reuters report that Iran has carried out ballistic missile attacks on air bases housing US forces in Iraq, in retaliation for the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani. The attack was confirmed by Iranian state television and American security sources. At present, it is unclear if there have been any casualties given a muted initial response from Washington.
The Financial Times reports that Donald Trump’s handling of the fallout from his strike against Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has created tensions with Pentagon officials, who are responding to fears of an expulsion of troops from Iraq and the threat of bombing cultural sites in Iran.
The Guardian, Associated Press and Reuters report that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would ban US carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf of Oman and the waters between Iran and Saudi Arabia after Iran’s missile attack.
The Guardian reports that the Iranian attacks will provide an opportunity for hawks inside the Donald Trump administration to ratchet up the conflict with Iran, but also potentially a pathway out of the crisis.
The Telegraph reports that Britain has been labelled by Iran as “a partner in crime” with the US over the killing of its top general, as the UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, took “urgent measures” to protect the safety of British troops in the region.
The Telegraph reports that the attack Qassim Soleimani was allegedly plotting was just days away from being launched when he was killed by the Americans, the US defence secretary Mark Esper has said.
Reuters reports that Asian shares tumbled on Wednesday, while oil, safe-haven Treasury prices and gold shot higher after Iran fired rockets at U.S.-led forces in Iraq, stoking fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The Guardian reports that oil prices surged on Wednesday after an Iranian missile attack on US and coalition military bases in Iraq that sparked fears of all-out war between Iran and America. Reuters reports that oil prices were about 1% higher on Wednesday, but well below highs hit in a frenetic start to the trading day after a rocket attack by Iran on American forces in Iraq raised the spectre of disruption to crude flows.
The Times reports that Turkish President Erdogan has unveiled the new headquarters of the Turkish national intelligence services in Ankara, a vast complex that has been dubbed “the fortress”.
The Telegraph reports that Libya’s civil war is being driven out of control by world powers who are violating an arms embargo they themselves imposed, the UN’s envoy to the country has said. Ghassan Salame warned governments who persisted in meddling in the deepening civil would be drawn into a “nightmare.”
The Financial Times, analyses Britain’s defence strategy, asserting reform of the military and its procurement procedures is long overdue.
In The Guardian, Dina Esfandiary argues that by killing Qassem Suleimani, Trump has united Iran and ‘brought together’ Iran’s divided government and its weary and desperate public.
In The Telegraph, Philip Johnston says that Boris Johnson should only back Trump over Iran if it’s in the UK’s interests, namely a diplomatic process to de-escalate regional tensions.
In The Independent, Jonathan Shaw says that the world will miss Soleimani if his judgement is replaced by hot-headed emotion.
In The Independent, Ahmed Aboudouh argues that Trump may be ‘in over his head with the Iran crisis’ and he could ‘pay for it’ at the ballot box when the US elects its president in November.
Likud increases pressure on Knesset legal adviser: The Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, came under renewed pressure from Likud to recuse himself from dealing either directly or indirectly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s immunity request, all Israeli media reported. Earlier this week it surfaced that Yinon’s partner serves as deputy attorney general and part of the team that formally indicted Netanyahu last November on various corruption charges. Justice Minister Amir Ohana (Likud) argued that Yinon was in “a severe conflict of interest” and that he had to step aside – and if not, that Ohana would request the Knesset speaker instruct him to do so. The Blue and White party are pushing for the formation of a parliamentary committee to discuss Netanyahu’s immunity request in the current Knesset, a move Yinon said was legal.
Sephardic chief rabbi says Soviet immigrants are not real Jews: Yediot Aharonot published remarks made by Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, during which he questioned the “Jewishness” of immigrants from the former states of the Soviet Union. “There are a lot of gentiles here, some of them are communists who hate religion. They aren’t Jews at all…They were brought to Israel to serve as a counterweight to the Haredim,” Yosef said. The remarks drew a firestorm of criticism from across the political system. Prime Minister Netanyahu described it as “an outrageous statement that is completely out of place,” adding that the “Aliya from the former Soviet Union is a huge blessing for the State of Israel and the Jewish People.” Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Liberman, for his part, called the remarks “patently racist and anti-Semitic,” and demanded that an investigation be opened to assess whether the rabbi’s comments constituted incitement.
Netanyahu blocks settlement construction in East Jerusalem: Kan Television reported that the Prime Minister’s Office is blocking the construction of 2000 new housing units in the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa, in East Jerusalem, due to diplomatic sensitivities. An unnamed diplomatic source did not deny the report, and added: “Israel has built in Jerusalem, is building in Jerusalem and will continue building in Jerusalem – while exercising judgment.” Earlier this week the Israeli military approved moving ahead with the construction of nearly 2000 additional new homes in the West bank.
Cypriot rape case concludes with suspended sentence: All Israeli media reported the conclusion of an alleged rape case involving a young British woman and several Israeli men in Cyprus. Cypriot authorities determined that the woman had falsely accused the men of rape, and had held her on the island since last summer. Although a local court last week found her guilty, she received a suspended sentence and small fine, and finally flew back to the UK yesterday. The case had been closely followed in Israel, including coverage of the significant British media attention. In addition, several dozen Israelis had flown to Cyprus to show support and solidarity with the woman.