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High-gear diplomacy aims to avert U.S.-Iran conflict

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – A flurry of diplomatic visits and meetings crisscrossing the Persian Gulf have driven urgent efforts in recent days to defuse the possibility of all-out war after the U.S. killed Iran's top military commander. Global leaders and top diplomats are repeating the mantra of "de-escalation" and "dialog," yet none has publicly laid out a path to achieving either. The United States and Iran have said they do not want war, but fears have grown that the crisis could spin out of Tehran's or Washington's control. Tensions have careened from one crisis to another since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. The U.S. drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad on Jan. 3 was seen as a major provocation.


Regime change quest suspected as Trump seizes on new Iran protests

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – With presidential tweets in Persian and stern warnings to the regime, Donald Trump's administration is rallying behind the latest protests in Iran -- and renewing suspicions that his real goal is regime change. Just a week ago, massive crowds took to the streets in Iran to mourn powerful Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad, and Tehran fired retaliatory missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq without inflicting casualties. Trump's response was, briefly, unusually conciliatory -- seeking a de-escalation with Iran and noting that they shared common interests, including fighting the Islamic State group. But all has changed since Saturday, when Iran admitted that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people, setting off a new round of protests by Iranians furious at the deaths and the regime's initial denial. The tragedy has "turned the tide against the Iranian leadership again," said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, which promotes conflict resolution.


Kept in the dark, U.S. Democrats have little recourse over Trump's Iran actions

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – U.S. lawmakers have few options for tamping down any escalation by President Donald Trump of tensions with Iran, despite Democrats' outrage over his failure to inform Congress in advance about a strike against a top Iranian military commander. Members of Congress begin to return from their year-end holiday recess on Monday, and Democrats said they will attempt quickly to pass legislation to bar Trump -- or any future U.S. commander-in-chief -- from conducting a campaign against Iran without obtaining Congress' approval. Late on Sunday, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic-led chamber would introduce and vote this week on a War Powers Resolution that would force Trump to stop military action against Iran within 30 days. But with Trump's fellow Republicans in control of the Senate and showing little inclination to break from their party's leader, there is scant expectation any legislation could win enough support to become law. Longtime foes Tehran and Washington have been in a war of words since Friday, when Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad airport.


Iraq: Anti-ISIS operations with US are resuming

FOX News

Fox News Flash top headlines for Jan. 30 are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. Joint military operations between coalition and Iraqi forces against the Islamic State group will resume, the Iraqi military said Thursday, after a nearly three-week pause that saw tensions between Washington and Tehran come to a boiling point. The escalations with Iran began after a U.S. drone strike killed one of its top generals in Baghdad earlier this month. Iraqi lawmakers subsequently voted to expel U.S. troops from the country in a non-binding resolution, a move Iraqi military officials said would jeopardize its fight against ISIS, which had overtaken large swaths of the country several years ago and has since been defeated.


What to Know About the Death of Iranian General Suleimani

NYT > Middle East

Get live updates and reaction here. The American drone attack near the Baghdad airport early Friday that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the powerful Iranian commander, drastically ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran, threatening to tip hostilities into war. Here's what to know about what happened and what comes next. General Suleimani was Iran's most powerful security and intelligence commander.