President Trump, after warning three days ago that Iran would pay "a very BIG PRICE," authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran's top general and second most powerful official, Qasem Soleimani.
Why it matters: Soleimani had cost hundreds of American lives and was among the Middle East's most feared powers. But Iran seems certain to respond, potentially further destabilizing the world's most volatile region.
Behind the scenes: A source in close contact with Trump administration senior national security officials tells Axios' Jonathan Swan that one scenario they are especially concerned about — and have been prepared for — is Iran launching cyberattacks.
The big picture: The president who wanted to bring home the troops is now engaged in the most intense conflict with Iran in recent history.
The bottom line: Modern wars are fought mostly with the most expensive, most difficult to recruit, train and retain: special forces.
President Trump has to prepare for an extreme backlash from Iran — and likely intensified attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East, and anywhere else within Iran’s planning reach.
It also means possible retaliation against U.S. allies, especially Israel, writes Axios contributor Barak Ravid.
CFR President Richard Haass tweets: "Make no mistake: any war with Iran will not look like the 1990 Gulf war or the 2003 Iraq wars."
To catch up quickly on why Qasem Soleimani was one of the most significant figures in the Middle East, here are five quick points from a 2013 profile by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker, "The Shadow Commander":
"In 2004, the Quds Force [that he led] began flooding Iraq with lethal roadside bombs that ... began to wreak havoc on American troops, accounting for nearly twenty per cent of combat deaths," Filkins continues.
Keep reading (paywall).
Speaker Pelosi said in a statement that the Iraq strike "was taken without the consultation of the Congress," and "risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence":
2020 Dems condemn: Joe Biden said President Trump "tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox" with the targeted killing of Iran's top general, and said it could leave the U.S. "on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East," AP reports.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Auto companies, counterintuitively, are trying to get people to give up their cars — by making shared transportation more appealing with vehicles that recognize you, anticipate your needs and customize your ride, Axios' Joann Muller writes.
The most important carrot could be convenience: In New York, bus ridership soared after a car ban on 14th Street cleared the way for buses, shortening travel time by 30%.
Bernie Sanders' $35 million fourth-quarter fundraising, which easily tops 2020 Democrats, is a timely reminder that the socialist senator from Vermont is the single most consistently popular and viable Democrat of the past half-decade.
The bottom line: Despite his age, and even after a heart attack and the insertion of stents this past fall, Sanders is surging again.
Between the lines: "His anti-establishment message hasn’t changed for 50 years, and it resonates with working-class voters and young people who agree the system is corrupt," the N.Y. Times wrote from Iowa last week.
Apple's new streaming service is only beginning to take shape, but already the tech giant has signaled that it's willing to spend big to lure Hollywood's top talent to be a part of it, writes Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer.
Alex Trebek, 79, says he's already rehearsed what he's going to say to the audience on his final "Jeopardy!" — whenever that may be.
In an interview with ABC's Michael Strahan broadcast in primetime last night, Trebek said he'll ask the director to leave him 30 seconds at the end of his last taping:
I will say my goodbyes and I will tell people, "Don't ask me who's going to replace me, because I have no say whatsoever. But I'm sure that if you give them the same love and attention and respect that you have shown me ... then they will be a success and the show will continue being a success ... And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye."
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