Last week, the US killed Iran's top general. The backlash has already begun.
This is about Qasem Soleimani right?
Yes. On Thursday, the US carried out an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport, killing the major general, among others. President Trump said Soleimani had been plotting "imminent and sinister attacks" on American diplomats and military personnel. But coming after a de-escalation at the US embassy in Baghdad, the move took the world by surprise.
And now Iran has retaliated?
Not yet. The country is still in three days of mourning. That ends today – and Iran has promised "harsh retaliation." Meanwhile, a lot happened over the weekend that has implications for...
The nuclear deal...Iran announced it would end its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. Trump had already pulled the US out of it, and Iran has since upped its enrichment of uranium – a material needed for nuclear weapons. Now, experts say Iran's decision to abandon all commitments could put it within months of developing nuclear weapons.
The fight against ISIS...The US-led coalition against ISIS is pausing all operations in Iraq. Instead, the coalition will focus on protecting Iraqi bases from potential attacks by Iranian-backed militias. Some worry the shift could lead to a resurgence of the terror group.
US troops in the region...Iraq's parliament called for the expulsion of all US troops from the country, an estimated 5,200 soldiers. If Iraq follows through, Trump says he'll impose sanctions on Iraq like the country's "never seen before." This all comes as the US sent another 3,500 troops to Kuwait, significantly expanding its presence in the region.
Protests...Soleimani was a notorious military commander, supporting regional terror groups and responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. But he had major support among Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Iran. This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people turned out across the two countries to mourn him. Meanwhile, Iran has hoisted a red flag over the great mosque in Jamkaran, reportedly signaling a major battle to come.
So what happens next?
We wait. Iran hasn't yet said how or when it will retaliate. But when it does, Trump warned he has a list of 52 sites in Iran he could target in response. The White House said the US would act lawfully, but Trump had mentioned targeting "cultural" sites in particular – raising concerns the US has threatened to violate international law.
Iran has yet to formally retaliate against the killing of the second most powerful person from the country. That could come within weeks. In the meantime, tensions have put the world increasingly on edge.
While all eyes are on Iran…
The US just suffered an attack in Kenya. Yesterday, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack killing three Americans at a Kenyan military base near the border with Somalia. Reminder: al-Shabab is al-Qaeda's affiliate in East Africa. It's carried out dozens of terror attacks in the region, including last month's deadly truck bomb attack in Somalia that killed 79 people. But yesterday's attack marks the first time the terror group targeted US forces in Kenya, killing two Defense Dept officials and a US service member.
Yes, US forces are in Kenya: The goal is to help countries in the region repel terror groups like al-Qaeda. The Pentagon has said there are about 6,000 US troops throughout Africa. Dozens of US personnel were reportedly stationed at this base in particular.
Venezuela. Yesterday, socialist leader Nicolás Maduro's government staged a de facto takeover of the country's legislature. Reminder: since last year, there've been two Venezuelans saying 'call me by your president': Maduro – backed by Russia and Iran – and opposition leader Juan Guaidó, backed by the US and dozens of other countries. Yesterday, lawmakers were supposed to vote on a new head of the National Assembly – a position Guaidó has held and was seeking re-election for. But Maduro's security forces surrounded the building, preventing opposition members from entering. Maduro's gov then swore in its own candidate in Guaidó's place.
Coup, much: The National Assembly was considered the last democratic institution left in Venezuela. And Guaidó's claim to interim president was based on his role as its leader. Guaidó and opposition officials called the move a "parliamentary coup." And said it was Maduro's way of solidifying power.
Skimm More: Our guide explains how the Maduro v Guaidó crisis got started.
Harvey Weinstein. Today, the Hollywood producer heads to trial over sexual misconduct allegations. These allegations were first reported in 2017 by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for The New York Times and Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker. Over 80 women have come forward since the reports – and ignited the #MeToo movement we know today. This case is intended to address two allegations: one from 2013 that he raped a woman in a New York hotel room. And one from 2006 that he performed a forcible sex act on a woman at his Manhattan apartment. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and repeatedly denied that these acts were non-consensual. The trial is expected to last about two months. If found guilty, Weinstein could face up to life in prison.
The Golden Globes. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" got its fairy tale ending. So did Awkwafina – the first Asian-American woman to win best actress for a comedy. Ellen DeGeneres felt the love. Female directors did not. "1917" is apparently the drama to watch this year – sorry to this Irishman. Michelle Williams used her platform to call for abortion rights. Laura Dern repped divorce lawyers. Brad Pitt would've shared the raft. And Tom Hanks out-Mr. Rogers'd Mr. Rogers.
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