Robert O'Brien in the Oval Office on Dec. 13. Photo: Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/Bloomberg via Getty Images
White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien tells Axios that despite predictions to the contrary, he's convinced Iran is more likely to return to the negotiating table since the U.S. killed Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.
O'Brien sat down with Margaret Talev, Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building yesterday to talk about Iran and other national security challenges at the start of a new year.
Between the lines: O'Brien's claim flies in the face of what the Iranian leadership and regional experts are saying.
O'Brien said he thinks "the Iranians have realized they don't want a military confrontation with the U.S. and that the maximum pressure campaign is not going to end."
After hotly denying it and blaming a mechanical problem, Iran today took responsibility for the fatal crash of a Ukrainian jet over Iran, saying it was an accident by the Revolutionary Guard.
O'Brien described a president who was determined to project strength as he saw pro-Iranian crowds attack the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Gulf allies to the U.S. can feel assured, O'Brien said, that "the U.S. is there to deter" Iranian aggression and "the Iranians understand that we mean business" and they should "think very carefully about attacking the United States and its interests in the region."
We asked O'Brien why the Trump administration publicly took credit for killing Soleimani, rather than killing him anonymously and leaving a "zone of deniability" — which some analysts have argued would have been more prudent because it would have been less humiliating to Iran's leaders. His response:
This GIF of three video images, of Iran's shootdown of a Ukrainian plane, shows a flash at the moment of explosion (darkest image), the plane engulfed, then the crash. Images: AP
The Iranian regime has miscalculated in three disastrous ways, leaving the Supreme Leader in a weaker position than 11 days ago:
Our thought bubble: Trump is taking a lot of flak globally and from Democrats. But at this moment, the Iranian regime is doing most of the suffering.
Democratic voters remain stubbornly divided on the top candidates in the four critical early states — and basically split in half between liberal and more centrist candidates.
The data: New polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina show the tempered-liberalism trifecta of Joe Biden + Pete Buttigieg + Amy Klobuchar is getting, in total, roughly the same share as the unabashedly liberal wing of Bernie Sanders + Elizabeth Warren + Tom Steyer.
The latest: With three weeks until Caucus Day, Sanders leads the gold-standard Iowa Poll for the first time:
Other early states: In New Hampshire, a Monmouth University poll out Thursday had a statistical tie among Buttigieg, Biden, Sanders and Warren.
Our thought bubble: Biden and Sanders are the nominal frontrunners for the first states — and nationally among black voters, according to new Washington Post-Ipsos poll.
Bernie Sanders' response to the Trump administration's strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani generated far more attention than his 2020 Democratic rivals, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.
President Trump and other Republicans allies sound confident about his impeachment trial, but some key Republican senators plan to push for witnesses.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters in Maine yesterday that she is working with a "fairly small group" of fellow GOP senators toward a goal of ensuring witnesses can be called, the Bangor Daily News reported.
"Old Musicians Never Die. They Just Become Holograms,' Mark Binelli writes for the N.Y. Times Magazine:
"Base Hologram ... started out by securing rights to produce holograms of Maria Callas and Roy Orbison," Binelli writes.
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