US ready for Iran talks, without preconditions
BBC News reports that the US says it is “ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations” with Iran following the countries’ exchange of hostilities.
BBC News reports that the Iranian strike on US forces at the Al-Asad and Erbil bases in Iraq may have intentionally missed its target to avoid casualties.
The Times reports that NATO is willing to give Donald Trump more support in the Middle East, as Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary-general, said in a phone call with Mr Trump that the 29-member alliance “could contribute more to regional stability and the fight against international terrorism” according to a NATO spokesperson.
The Financial Times reports that Mike Lee, a Republican senator from Utah, blasted Trump administration officials for offering an inadequate briefing on the intelligence that justified the decision to kill Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, marking a rare crack in Republican support for the US attack on Soleimani last week. The Independent reports that intelligence briefings given by Trump administration officials detailing the rationale for the airstrike has been derided by members of both parties in the US Capitol.
Huffington Post reports that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a resolution intended to limit President Donald Trump’s military actions regarding Iran, stating that concerns about the administration’s strategy and decisions were not addressed in a briefing with lawmakers.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that Lord Pickles has called for the UK Government to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as banning the group ‘would send a clear signal to Iran that the normalisation of relations cannot be conducted through a terrorist organisation’.
The Telegraph reports that the crashed Boeing 737-800 did not have the capacity to transmit an emergency call before it descended out of control, suggesting a ‘sudden and violent’ incident. The Independent reports that an engine problem may be behind tragedy that killed 176 people, according to intelligence officials.
The Financial Times reports that Justin Trudeau has demanded that Canada plays a significant role in the investigation into the plane crash near Tehran that claimed the lives of 176 people, including 63 Canadian citizens.
The Times reports that a British engineer and his new wife were among 176 people killed when the Boeing 737 plunged to the ground en route to Ukraine.
In The Independent, Faisal Bodi argues Iran is not interested in Trump’s Middle Eastern peace plan and its revenge tactics will go beyond official warfare, demonstrating both Trump’s naivety and Iranian persistance.
In The Independent, Borzou Daragahi says Iran’s response to the US killing of Qassem Soleimani will be informed by US domestic politics, and the possibility of Donald Trump winning a second term as US president.
In The Guardian, Simon Tisdall argues Boris Johnson risks dragging the UK into conflict with Iran, given Johnson has appeared ‘weak’ in the face of US hawkishness from the onset of the crisis.
In The Times, Gerard Baker says that the killing on Qassem Soleimani made ‘perfect sense’, asserting Trump has been accused of ‘acting impulsively and cynically’ but the strategy has succeeded in putting Iran on the back foot.
In The Telegraph, Allister Heath argues the Iran crisis has demonstrated the Western alliance no longer exists, becoming an impotent force that can best aim for containment of actors in the Middle East.
In The Independent, Negar Mortazavi asserts Iran was always going to retaliate for the death of Qassam Soleimani, but the horrendous legacies of the Iran-Iraq War deter Tehran from seeking an all-out war with the US.
All the Israeli media report that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz issued an ultimatum yesterday to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to allow the formation of the Knesset House Committee to vote on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s immunity. Maariv reports that Blue and White are threatening that if Edelstein blocks the vote it will take steps next week, with the support of 65 MKs including Yisrael Beiteinu, to dismiss Edelstein and replace him with another Knesset speaker. Haaretz reports that Gantz said the US should not release its long awaited plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks saying: “I can assume that on such an important matter the Americans would be careful and not publish it before the election, because that would be an outright intervention in the State of Israel’s election process.”
All the Israeli media report that the Israeli Defence Ministry has announced a technological breakthrough that uses laser technology to intercept rockets. The capability was developed by Rafael and Elbit and will be tested this year and could be operational within 18 months. The system operates against rockets up to a range of 40 km, as well as short range mortars, anti-tank missiles and small aircraft.
The Israeli media all report the Iranian missile attack on Iraqi bases with US personnel. Shimrit Meir writes in Yediot Ahronot: “The Soleimani assassination is an event that ought to spur Israeli and Western officials to reconsider their views about Iranian deterrence, how much of it is backed by a real ability to face off against significant military force, and how much of it relies on an inflated view of its strength for a variety of reasons. The average American who watched the hysteria play out in the television studios may certainly have been induced to adopt the premise that crazy Trump has just gotten the Americans mixed up in World War Three. But the Israelis who have prosecuted the war against the Iranians in Syria in the past few years and have seen the disparity between the myth and the reality were not surprised.” In Maariv, Tal Lev Ram focuses on the Israeli dilemma: “In the tense and volatile situation, the Israeli security establishment faces a greater dilemma when contemplating the ongoing offensive actions to stop Iranian military entrenchment in Syria. It seems that Israel has chosen to be more cautious at present, recognising that any operation in the region could have serious repercussions. There have not been any recent reports about attacks in Syria and Iraq that have been ascribed to Israel.”
Israel Hayom reports a conference in Jerusalem devoted to “The Pompeo Doctrine,” based on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement in November that the US no longer viewed Israel’s settlements as “inconsistent with international law.” Pompeo appeared via video link in a pre-recorded statement and said the administration of US President Donald Trump returned to a “balanced and sober” approach to Middle East peace by changing its position, “It’s important that we speak the truth when the facts lead us to it. And we are recognising that these settlements don’t inherently violate international law.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke at the conference and said that the Trump administration’s backing was a “proper answer to the decision by the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate Israel’s actions in Judea and Samaria.” Haaretz reports that Defence Minister Naftali Bennett has established a task force to strengthen Israeli settlement activity. The plan is to further develop Area C, legalise unauthorised outposts and allow individual Israelis to buy land in the West Bank.