After Iran fired missiles at two military bases used by U.S. forces, there were signs of a possible pause in the cycle of attack and retaliation. But the events have scrambled the 2020 presidential campaign.
Attack, Retaliation and ... a Pause?
Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles at two military bases used by U.S. forces in Iraq in an audacious predawn attack, the Pentagon said, as long-simmering tensions erupted into fiery explosions and fears of all-out war after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general.
Should President Trump choose to escalate further, he has many options for retaliation. But in the immediate aftermath, both Tehran and Washington seemed to signal a possible pause in the weeks-long cycle. There were no confirmed reports of U.S. casualties. And there was no immediate U.S. military response or statement from Trump — only a tweet that he would address the nation Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in targeting Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the U.S. has given Iran what it reveres: a martyr. His killing elevated him to a centuries-old pantheon at once both state propaganda and a vivid reminder of how deep national devotion and the piety of Islam inspire the country.
War, Peace and the Campaign Trail
Suleimani’s killing and Iran’s quick retaliation have scrambled the 2020 presidential campaign, thrusting issues of war and peace to the center of a contest that so far has been dominated by domestic issues.
Even before Iran’s strikes, the rising tensions had brought Democrats’ disagreements about the U.S. role in the world into sharp relief, particularly those between its front-runners — former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s had a hand in decades of U.S. foreign policy, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an anti-interventionist critic of those policies. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has echoed Sanders.
And the president’s targeting of Suleimani crystallized what Americans love or hate about Trump: It was the kind of impulsive show of force that fans embrace as tough-guy swagger but critics fear as his dangerously erratic, even unhinged, behavior.
— Republicans leaders say they have the votes to approve impeachment trial rules without Democratic support, spurning for now former national security advisor John Bolton’s offer to testify and all but guaranteeing a combative, partisan Senate trial.
— Federal prosecutors say Michael Flynn, one of Trump’s earlier national security advisors, deserves up to six months behind bars, reversing their earlier leniency request on the basis that he had “retreated from his acceptance of responsibility.”
— Rep. Duncan Hunter says he will officially resign Monday, nearly six weeks after the California Republican pleaded guilty to a felony charge of misusing campaign funds.
Deadly Plane Crash Near Tehran
A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s main airport Wednesday, killing all on board, state TV reported and officials in Ukraine said. A spokesman for Iran’s transportation agency said a fire had struck one of its engines and the pilot had then lost control. The crash came hours after Iran launched missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. forces.
Ukraine’s prime minister said his country was preparing to help investigate the cause of the crash. The Ukrainian foreign minister said most of the passengers were Iranian or Canadian, and its president extended his condolences to all the victims.
Haitian Immigrants’ Uncertain Future
Nearly a decade after a major earthquake devastated the island nation they called home, Trump wants to end the immigration protections that President Obama extended to Haitians in its aftermath. And while the Department of Homeland Security has recently given them a one-year reprieve, the legal limbo has left many families anxious.
Haitian immigrants had always known that, in theory, the protections were temporary. But over the years, as they worked, worshiped and had children — more than half in south Florida — Haiti itself had begun to feel very far away. A group that serves immigrants in Miami’s Little Haiti estimates that since the earthquake, Haitians with protected status have had about 30,000 children, all American citizens. “Parents wake up and do not know if they will be taken from kids,” says Marleine Bastien, its executive director.
For Father Reginald Jean-Mary, the pastor of Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church in Miami, the uncertainty means hours of prayer. “We ask for guidance and for strength,” he prays with families. “We look for a path forward.”
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FROM THE ARCHIVES
On this day in 2011, a meet-and-greet at a Tucson shopping center transformed the life of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords. The Democrat was meeting constituents when a gunman approached and opened fire, killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. Giffords was shot in the head but survived. She left Congress to focus on her recovery but later became a leading voice for gun control along with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, who is now running for John McCain’s former Senate seat.
— A U.S. defense contractor killed in Iraq last month in a rocket attack that led to heightened tensions with Iran has reportedly been laid to rest. Nawres Waleed Hamid, a married father of two young children, died Dec. 27 in the strike on a base where he worked as a linguist.
— Gov. Gavin Newsom, citing the need to act quickly to get homeless people off the streets, will ask lawmakers this week for more than $1.4 billion for local and state-run efforts, much of it earmarked as subsidies for immediate housing and community healthcare services.
— L.A.’s first homeless housing project under Proposition HHH is complete, and more are on the way. It’s been more than three years and plenty of missed deadlines since voters approved the $1.2-billion bond for homeless housing.
— More than 60% of the inmates with a mental illness in the L.A. County Jail would be eligible for diversion if there were more facilities capable of providing supportive care, a move that could take thousands out of the criminal justice system, a new study finds.
— The state’s oldest weekly newspaper, which once published Mark Twain, will keep printing after a retiree from its hometown stepped in to save it.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
— Lizzo will be the first female act to headline the Bonnaroo festival in June.
— In an awards season version of Super Tuesday, the Producers Guild further confirmed the legitimacy of “1917" and boosted a resurgent “Little Women,” while the Directors Guild nominated the usual suspects and, surprisingly, Taika Waititi for his Hitler comedy “Jojo Rabbit.”
— Despite what you may have heard, no one’s trying to make white men feel guilty for being white men, critic Mary McNamara writes.
— Elizabeth Wurtzel, whose groundbreaking 1994 memoir “Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America” sparked unprecedented dialogue about clinical depression and addiction, has died at age 52 after a battle with breast cancer.
— The per-capita cost of administering healthcare is more than four times higher in the U.S. than in Canada, where a single-payer system has been in place since 1962, a new study finds.
— Mexico is voicing opposition to the Trump administration’s controversial plan to send Mexicans seeking asylum in the U.S. to Guatemala instead.
— Israel is in an uproar after recordings surfaced of its chief rabbi disparaging immigrants from the former Soviet Union as “communist, religion-hating goys,” or gentiles.
— As President Nicolas Maduro holds onto power in Venezuela, opposition leader Juan Guaido took an oath as “interim president” as an alternative to the socialist leader.
— One of the country’s biggest labor unions is trying to organize video game and tech workers.
— Why do gas stations raise gas prices really fast when there’s turmoil in the oil market but lower them again far more slowly? The short answer is because they can. But as columnist David Lazarus found, the full answer is more complicated.
— IKEA will pay $46 million to an Orange County couple whose 2-year-old died after a 70-pound recalled dresser tipped over onto him.
— Did the Dodgers lose to sign-stealing cheaters in two World Series in a row? The league is investigating the teams that beat them in 2017 and 2018.
— Devin Mallory is doing what he loves as the first man on UCLA’s dance team. The teams he dances for could use such inspiration; UCLA’s men’s basketball and football teams haven’t been this bad in nine decades.
— Instead of trading Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers need to be patient, columnist LZ Granderson writes.
— The meat industry isn’t pleased about the arrival of plant-based meat, and for good reason: It’s a climate-friendly game changer, writes The Times’ editorial board.
— If 18-year-olds can’t buy alcohol or rent cars, they don’t belong in the adult justice system, and California can end the practice of putting them there, writes the co-director of the Columbia University’s Justice Lab.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
— If 2016 marked the rise of fake news, 2020 is the year it gets slicker. A new breed of PR firms is promising clients around the world sophisticated campaigns for the right price. (Buzzfeed News)
— A closer look at the misunderstood subculture of furries, adults who like dressing up in animal costumes. (Rolling Stone)
— The rise of the resistance socialite, whose society side gig has a conscience. (The Cut)
ONLY IN L.A.
We all know the feeling of coming back from a leisurely holiday break to suddenly face a wall of deadlines. This year in Hollywood, that experience has had its own unique twist. These will be the earliest Oscars ever — and that’s made for a shorter nominations voting period and left much of the academy scrambling to plow through piles of DVD screeners.