By Robert A. Vella
Iran will surely retaliate against the U.S. after President Trump ordered the assassination of one of its top military officials, but uncertainty over how it will do so is creating a lot of anxiety around the world. Some things are quite clear, however. Iran is unlikely to directly confront the U.S. military in conventional warfare which it cannot win, so it will instead likely attempt to attack high-profile targets which are more vulnerable – such as diplomats serving overseas, American business interests, vital U.S. infrastructure through cyber-attacks, and any notable persons closely associated with Donald Trump. Any immediate retaliation would probably occur in countries with lax security or in public places which are difficult to defend. More deliberative retaliation would take longer to plan and be much more sophisticated. Regardless, Americans and their allies across the globe should understand the personal danger they are now potentially in.
Since Trump is persona non grata both internationally and domestically, I would expect Iran’s response to be politically cognizant as well. A random, indiscriminate attack which killed or injured innocent victims could rally the world community against it. A retaliatory assassination of someone who opposes Trump could have the same effect. Additionally, Iran must be mindful of Russia’s and China’s concerns and interests because those two powers are its chief benefactors.
Then, there is this year’s presidential election in the U.S. Undoubtedly, Iran will be focused like a laser beam on doing anything which might embarrass Trump and weaken his reelection chances. The optimum window for such actions would be in September or October.
Here is another item of clarity. Iran, as a very large country with a population over 80 million and a nominal GDP nearing $500 billion, has vastly more resources at its disposal than the al-Qaeda organization had in 2011 when its leader Osama bin Laden was killed under orders from President Obama. Whereas al-Qaeda had few if any nation-state allies and could do little to retaliate, Iran is not so constrained. It can and will retaliate.
Here’s more on this story plus today’s other news:
WASHINGTON — The United States and Iran exchanged escalating military threats on Friday as President Trump warned that he was “prepared to take whatever action is necessary” if Iran threatened Americans and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed to exact vengeance for the killing on Mr. Trump’s order of Iran’s most valued general.
Although the president insisted that he took the action to avoid a war with Iran, the continuing threats further rattled foreign capitals, global markets and Capitol Hill, where Democrats demanded more information about the strike and Mr. Trump’s grounds for taking such a provocative move without consulting Congress.
Democrats also pressed questions about the attack’s timing and whether it was meant to deflect attention from the president’s expected impeachment trial this month in the Senate. They said he risked suspicion that he was taking action overseas to distract from his political troubles at home, as in the political movie “Wag the Dog.”
NEW YORK — A federal judge in Manhattan ruled Friday that an indicted associate of President Trump’s personal lawyer may provide Congress with evidence in his criminal case that is of interest to impeachment investigators.
U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken granted an application from a lawyer for Lev Parnas seeking permission to give lawmakers access to phone data and documents seized by federal prosecutors after his October arrest. The House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the materials as part of its impeachment inquiry, according to Parnas’s lawyer Joseph Bondy.
The materials are expected to include documents taken from Parnas’s Florida home along with a complete readout of his iPhone. Bondy has said there is relevant information contained in the materials, though he has not disclosed specifically what that might be.
WASHINGTON — Federal agencies would no longer have to take climate change into account when they assess the environmental impacts of highways, pipelines and other major infrastructure projects, according to a Trump administration plan that would weaken the nation’s benchmark environmental law.
The proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act could sharply reduce obstacles to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other fossil fuel projects that have been stymied when courts ruled that the Trump administration did not properly consider climate change when analyzing the environmental effects of the projects.
The United Methodist Church is expected to split into more than one denomination in an attempt to bring to a close a years-long and contentious fight over same-sex marriage.
The historic schism would divide the third-largest religious denomination in the United States.
Leaders of the church announced Friday they had agreed to spin off a “traditionalist Methodist” denomination, which would continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy, while allowing the remaining portion of the United Methodist Church to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history.
The plan would need to be approved in May at the denomination’s worldwide conference.