Daily News Roundup

January 8, 2020

(Reuters: Thaier al-Sudani)

WEDNESDAY, January 8

The tense US-Iran conflict took yet another step towards open war between the two nations after at least two military bases housing US troops in Iraq come under fire from “at least a dozen ballistic missiles” fired from Iran, the Pentagon says.

Iranian state TV said Tehran launched “tens” of surface-to-surface missiles at the al-Asad airbase inside Iraq in response to America’s killing of a top Iranian general.

Pentagon Press Secretary Alyssa Farah said the US was “working on initial battle damage assessments”.

“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners, & allies in the region,” she tweeted.

Iranian state TV described the attacks as Tehran’s revenge operation for the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport last week.

“The fierce revenge by the Revolutionary Guards has begun,” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement on a Telegram channel, according to the New York Times.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said US President Donald Trump was aware of the attack.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard issued a statement warning the US and its regional allies not to hit back.

The rocket attack was in response  to the assassination of a top- Iranian general Qassem Soleimaniby the Americans.

State TV said the operation’s name was “Marytr Soleimani”, and that the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, which controls Iran’s missile program, launched the attack.

It was not immediately clear whether the reported missile strikes struck the base or whether any damage had been caused.

US forces could not be immediately reached for comment. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the White House was aware of the reports.

It came as it was revealed US President Donald Trump was goaded into ordering the assassination of the general by a tweet from Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The incendiary tweet was sent just a few hours after a mob of pro-Iranian protesters and militia members attacked the American embassy in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad – surrounding it, pelting stones and setting fire to part of it.

The attack followed a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base on December 27, that killed an American civilian and injured several members of the US military.

The next day, Pentagon officials presented Mr Trump with a suite of options to consider in response to the attack. The most outlandish one was to kill Soleimani.

Mr Trump, as usual lashed out at the escalating events on Twitter, saying Iran would be held “fully responsible” for the attack and would pay a “very big price”.

“This is not a warning, it is a threat. Happy New Year!” he wrote.

Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei replied with a provocative taunt “You can’t do anything”

According to The Times of London, it was at that point, with images of the burning embassy plastered all over TV, that Mr Trump “snapped” and settled on a drastic response he had previously ignored.

He decided to kill the notorious Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a man second in power only to Ali Khamenie himself.

The next day, Pentagon officials presented Mr Trump with a suite of options to consider in response to the attack. The most outlandish one was to kill Soleimani.

“In the wars waged since the September 11 attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable,” The New York Times later reported.

The idea of killing Soleimani was one such option. The officials did not expect Mr Trump to choose it – and at first, he didn’t. Instead the President ordered airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia group.

The attack on the embassy, which marred New Year’s Eve, helped changed his mind.

When Soleimani’s killing became public, the Trump administration argued it was sparked by intelligence showing he was planning an imminent attack which could threaten hundreds of American lives.

It’s unclear just how solid that intelligence was – some officials, speaking anonymously to the media, have described it as “razor thin”.

But whatever the justification for Soleimani’s death, the immediate consequence has been even greater friction between the two nations and confusion in the region.

The increased tension came as a new poll in the US said a  majority of US adults expect the US and Iran to be at war in the near future.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll said the American public is increasingly critical of President Donald Trump’s handling of Iran after he ordered the killing of the Iranian general.

The national opinion poll found that 53 per cent of adults in the US disapprove of Trump’s handling of Iran, which is an increase of about 9 percentage points from a similar poll that ran in the middle of December.

The number of adults who “strongly disapprove” of Trump’s actions in Iran – 39 per cent – is up 10 points from the December poll.

The response was largely split along party lines, with disapproval up over the past month among Democrats and independents, while it did not change among Republicans.


Australian actress Margot Robbie will compete against herself at the upcoming BAFTA Awards in February having received two nominations in the Best Supporting Actress category on Tuesday morning, for her roles in Bombshell and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

The treatment of Robbie’s largely wordless character, murdered ‘60s actress Sharon Tate, in the latter film, saw director Quentin Tarantino criticised for what some viewed as underutilising Robbie’s talent.

Meanwhile, actresses such as Jennifer Lopez, Lupita Nyong’o and Awkwafina were overlooked for Britain’s top movie honours, giving rise to the #BAFTASSoWhite hashtag that began trending on Twitter.

Scarlett Johansson was also nominated twice, for best lead actress for Marriage Story and for best supporting actress for six-time BAFTA nominee Jojo Rabbit.

Even the CEO of the BAFTAs admitted to being “very disappointed” in the lack of diversity in the nominations.

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Speaking on Radio 4 on Tuesday, when Amanda Berry OBE was asked if the 2020 nominations were a “more diverse” list, she said: “If I’m being totally honest, no, I’m very disappointed.”

She agreed with the suggestion that the list was “very white”, saying, “that’s how I felt when I first saw the list and this isn’t being disrespectful to anyone who has been nominated because it’s an incredibly strong list this year.”


The smoke from Australia’s bushfires has arrived in Chile after crossing more than 11,000 kilometres of Pacific Ocean, according to news agencies’ reports.

A meteorological trough is suspected to be the conduit through which the haze has managed to travel so far.

Authorities say the smoke is especially visible in central Chile, where mist is covering the sky that under normal circumstances would be cloudless, and could stay around for up to a day.

“In the coming days probably it will head toward Argentina,” meteorologist Edita Amador, who works for Chile’s Weather Directorate, said on Monday.

The presence of smoke should not cause any serious effects in the South American nation, since it rarely rains in that area.

The only consequence so far, Amador said, is a reduction in the ultraviolet radiation reaching the ground because of the “cap” that these kind of clouds form over the land.

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