Jan 3, 2020

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 486 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: The next move on Iran

Photos: AP (3); Reuters (U.S. soldiers guard Baghdad embassy)

For all the prior warnings and bluster, it's hard to think of a more precarious period of the Trump presidency than this very moment.

Why it matters: The surprise of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani's killing has left the world on edge.

  • In Tehran, the Ayatollah threatened a "forceful revenge."
  • In Baghdad, the U.S. government urged Americans to flee the country as Iraqi lawmakers worked on legislation asking U.S. troops to leave.
  • In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, roughly 3,500 members of the 82nd Airborne prepared to deploy to Kuwait.
  • In Florida, President Trump said he does not want regime change and "we did not take action to start a war."
  • And in Washington, some Democrats forcefully opposed further action, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed "dozens if not hundreds of American lives" were at "imminent" risk. He did not provide specific evidence.

Between the lines: A good deal of the tension comes from the range of possible outcomes.

  • "Iranians are the masters of striking soft targets ... In the past few years, they have honed an ability to cause low-level chaos," the N.Y. Times reports.

Among the options, per the AP:

  • Cyberattacks like the one that hit U.S. banks prior to the Iran Deal.
  • Targeting America's Gulf allies, especially Saudi Arabia.
  • Using proxies in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
  • Nothing: Previous threats for retaliation, like after a Hezbollah commander was killed in 2008, passed without a major response.

What's next: The White House is preparing to present partners and allies with intelligence on the “imminent threat” it says prompted this attack, Kirsten Fontenrose, who served on the National Security Council earlier in the Trump administration, said on an Atlantic Council conference call.

  • The National Security Council is working to coordinate next steps, while the State Department consults with allies on what Iranian responses are acceptable, and what they’re willing to do to help the U.S. push back if necessary, Axios world editor Dave Lawler reports.
Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Australian Department of Defense/Helen Frank/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Wildfire victims walk down to the beach to be evacuated by the Australian navy.

2. What you missed
  1. One manufacturing activity index hit its lowest level since the end of the Great Recession. Go deeper.
  2. Senate Republicans are showing no interest in bending to Democratic demands on impeachment. Go deeper.
  3. Snap has acquired AI Factory, the Ukrainian startup it worked with to develop its new "Cameos" feature that maps selfies onto videos. Go deeper.
  4. United Methodist Church leaders unveiled a plan to split in an attempt to resolve a dispute over gay marriage and gay clergy, the AP reports.
  5. Sen. Cory Booker's 2020 campaign raised $6.6 million. Go deeper.
  6. CES preview: Who will be making announcements and the types of products to expect. Go deeper.
3. 1 Jeopardy! thing

Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC via AP

All-time top "Jeopardy!" money winners Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer will face off in prime time, the AP reports.

  • The winner will get $1 million, with $250,000 for each runner-up.
  • The tournament “was a natural because of the appearance of James Holzhauer,” said host Alex Trebek.
  • “Prior to that, there wasn’t a contestant who measured up, in the eyes of our viewers, to Ken Jennings or Brad Rutter."

First episode airs at 8 p.m. EST Tuesday.

Mike Allen