Jan 8, 2020

Missiles, earthquakes, plane crashes: Chaos in Iran.

Missiles, earthquakes, plane crashes: Chaos in Iran.

Plus, Tangle dives into the Australia wildfires.

Today’s read: 9 minutes.

Chaos in Iran, some small corrections, two questions about Australia’s wildfires and an important story on gun control.

President Trump addresses the nation. Screenshot via Fox 10 Phoenix.

Find this online?

Tangle is an independent, ad-free, non-partisan politics newsletter where I give you a range of perspectives and answer reader questions from across the country. Please consider subscribing with your email below.

Sign up now

What D.C. is talking about.

Iran. Last night (our time), Iran attacked two bases in Iraq that house American troops with a series of missile attacks. “The fierce revenge by the Revolutionary Guards has begun,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said in a statement. President Trump issued an address to the country at 11:30am EST, saying “the American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained… Iran appears to be standing down.” Iranian state TV claimed 22 missiles were fired at two military bases. Not long after the strikes, which were intercepted by missile defense systems, a Ukrainian passenger jet carrying more than 170 people crashed in Iran, killing everyone on board. Iranian state media said the plane likely crashed because of technical difficulties. Ukraine’s embassy in Iran seemed to concur, issuing a statement ruling out terrorism. But then they removed that statement without any explanation, replacing it with one stating an investigation into the crash was taking place. The NYT reported on the passengers: “82 Iranians; 63 Canadians; 11 Ukrainians, including nine crew members; 10 Swedes; four Afghans; three Germans and three Britons. Iranian officials said more than 140 passengers were Iranians, suggesting that some may have had dual citizenship.” Then, as if the day couldn’t be crazy enough, a 4.9 magnitude earthquake hit Iran in a region near one of the country’s biggest nuclear power plants.

What the right is saying.

This could be a big win for Trump. Iran threw its counterpunch, no Americans were hurt and no Iraqis were hurt. Trump can claim victory by saying he kept U.S. soldiers safe. Iran can claim victory by saying it made it rain on U.S. soldiers. Everyone can walk away and de-escalate. “All is well!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well-equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!” A lot of folks are quoting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who tweeted: "Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense ... We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression." That sounds a lot like Iran has “concluded,” which means Trump may have just killed Soleimani without any major impact on American soldiers.

What the left is saying.

This isn’t over. Iran’s track record of retaliation isn’t about a large-scale military attack on U.S. bases. It’s about the threat of terrorism in the region and the proxy war attacks they may attempt over the next few months. Yashar Ali, a left-leaning reporter of Iranian descent, wrote on Twitter: “The Iranian government has always operated on its own timeline. If you think Iran lobbing missiles over the border is the kind of revenge they ultimately have in mind, you're wrong.” He linked to this Wall Street Journal story about past Iranian attacks that usually go after “soft targets,” like when bomb attacks struck Israeli diplomats in Georgia, Thailand and India. There was also the bomb attack that killed Israeli tourists on a bus trip through Bulgaria. These are the kinds of attacks many U.S. officials fear. Others have made the point that even in the event this attack is the end of the retaliation, the damage to American diplomacy is already done.

My take.

I’m not going to start calling balls and strikes this early. Of course, both sides here are going to do their best to claim the strike against Soleimani is a win or a loss for the U.S. now — but the fully fleshed out repercussions of this won’t be felt for some time. I certainly feel relief that the first big retaliation here didn’t result in any American losses — that is great news. But I also agree that this has been a de-stabilizing act on its own and it’s still obvious there isn’t a plan.

It’s also worth noting that last night a nation literally bombed U.S. bases in Iraq. I’m happy to hear there were no casualties and (so far) no reported injuries, but I can’t really remember the last time there was a direct military response to the U.S. of that nature. It’s pretty significant and really solidifies my puzzlement at all the people warning of impending war as if we aren’t already participating in a war.

Finally, on the plane crash: I’m not going to speculate on what happened, but it’s certainly a wild coincidence that a plane goes down during take off the same day as all this missile shooting madness. For everyone out there launching conspiratorial claims about Iran shooting a plane out of the sky, just remember that the plane was mostly Iranians. It would be a bizarre move from the regime, trying to unite Iranians against the U.S., to go ahead a kill a bunch of Iranians and no Americans on a domestic flight to Ukraine. It’s also worth noting that Boeing recently grounded 737 Max planes across the globe because of tech issues causing crashes like this. The downed plane in Iran was a Boeing 737-800, the most popular plane in the skies, and is the predecessor to the 737 Max. That’s all I’ll say about it for now — but certainly worth staying appraised on the investigation.

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: questions are a big part of Tangle. I want readers to have a direct line to a reporter that lives and breathes political news. If you ever have a question, you can reply to this email or tweet at me: @Ike_Saul or @TangleNews

In the last two days, I received two questions about Australia that I’d like to tackle.

Q: Why isn’t anyone helping Australia? Or are we just not seeing the aid in the news? I feel like normally we’ll see something about our gov’t issuing aid in situations like this...

- Kelsey, Pittsburgh, PA

And this question:

Q: With the recent wildfires in Australia, I’ve seen another surge of social media activism across various platforms… What organizations and legislators/political figures (both national & international) should I be following and supporting in the fight against climate change? I’m looking for ways to take action before there’s a natural disaster or relief campaign and wondering who are the people and governmental organizations fighting for the greater goal of a more sustainable future? How can I help besides ‘eat less meat’ and ‘spend green’? What politicians should I be advocating for in this fight?

- Cara, Los Angeles, CA

Tangle: To address Kelsey’s question first: yes, the United States is (thankfully) sending some help to Australia. There’s actually a really interesting organization I heard about when these fires started raging: the National Interagency Fire Center, based in Boise, Idaho. NIFC was built to facilitate a coordinated response to fires in the western United States but has also become a bit of an emergency response team that addresses floods and earthquakes, too. Now they’re helping organize a troop of over 100 U.S. volunteers going to Australia.

That, too, is an interesting story, because Australia and New Zealand have been sending firefighters to the U.S. for the last 15 years, most recently in 2018 to help battle California blazes. There is a really cool global coalition of firefighters that have kind of coalesced together in major times of need. So, yes: the U.S. has sent help. President Trump also had a phone call where he apparently offered any support needed to Australia. Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked him on Twitter:

As for Cara’s question: it’s big one, but some stuff worth noting. First, while the unusually dry season and high temperatures in Australia are escalating this crisis, I also think it’s worth noting that climate change alone isn’t the reason for these fires. Some 24 people have been arrested for intentionally starting bushfires since November, according to CNN. I don’t say that to minimize the role of climate change — which has been huge — but it just seems like a part of the story that’s been undercovered.

Traditionally, if you care about climate change, the politicians most concerned with the issue in America are Democrats. That is slowly changing, with many Republicans starting to make pro-environment issues a part of their platforms. The kind of politicians you’ll like depends on the kind of activism you’re looking for. Bernie Sanders and Elizbeth Warren have been the loudest, “think big” lefties on climate change. Both have endorsed the Green New Deal, which would be a massive government overhaul to create a more eco-friendly country (with a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2030). Even Warren and Sanders differ in places: Sanders is anti-carbon capture and nuclear energy (which he calls “false solutions”) while Warren has expressed a desire for a carbon tax (essentially charging people for emissions) and hasn’t really taken a stance on carbon capture technology. You can read an extensive breakdown of where U.S. politicians fall on climate issues from Grist here.

If you’re looking for a candidate who really owns the climate change issue, though, it’s Jay Inslee. He’s the Governor of Washington state who ran for president almost solely on climate change. Though he’s dropped out, his plans basically helped form the Democratic response to climate change. He also speaks about the issue from a rural and urban perspective, as he’s lived a life on both sides of that fence. I’d highly recommend digging into his plan if you’re interested in climate change.

On the global front, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel is often called “the climate chancellor” by German reporters because she cares so much about the issue. Germany has successfully turned almost a third of its energy into renewable sources and its greenhouse gasses are plummetting. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also ran on a climate change platform and instituted a “carbon price” (aka a carbon tax) that passed in 2018. The tax will increase the cost of gas and double the price of coal, but 90% of the rebates from the carbon tax go directly back to Canadians to more than offset those prices.

Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish activist, was just named TIME’s person of the year, so I’d be remiss not to mention her. I really appreciate Michael Shellenberger’s writing on climate change, as he often pushes back on the apocalyptic news coverage of the climate change threat. I’d also recommend following Christiana Figueres, the woman in charge of the U.N. Framework Convention on climate change. She’s proved crucial in getting climate leaders to agree on solutions.

Finally, for you: eating less meat and spending more green are certainly good ways to start. My personal opinion is that climate change is a complex, holistic issue that requires complex, holistic approaches. Silver bullets don’t exist, so be cautious of them. I happen to disagree with Sanders and Warren, as I believe nuclear energy and carbon capture have to be a part of a forward-thinking climate change plan that includes creating renewable energy through solar and wind. I also don’t think big government is going to solve this issue. We need regulation, and we need incentives, but we also need the private sector to invest in the kind of tech that can change the world. I recently helped publish TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 best inventions of 2019, and it’s worth seeing the incredible stuff coming out of the private sector that addresses climate change.

I once read an expert on waste reduction who said that healing the planet will require “millions of micro-actions” from people as a collective. That always resonated with me, so don’t underestimate the power you have. I try to avoid throwing out plastic bags and reuse them as much as I can. I take reusable bags to the grocery store. I try not to run water aimlessly for too long. I donate to organizations that plant trees or fight deforestation (the natural world can probably handle our emissions, but not if we keep destroying forests). I pay the extra couple bucks for chicken or beef that was raised in a more ethical or eco-friendly way. I have reusable water bottles that go everywhere with me. All those kinds of things help. BBC did a long write up on how to be more “eco-friendly” in different facets of life. You might find it insightful and can read it here.

A story that matters.

A day after Colorado's new red flag firearm seizure law went into effect, the state used it for the first time. A judge gave approval for police in Colorado to keep guns they had confiscated from a man who allegedly beat his wife and made a suicidal statement to investigators. So-called “red flag” laws popping up across the country allow police to confiscate guns from individuals who are deemed a threat to themselves or someone close to them by a judge or court. The controversial law by opposed to second amendment activists who say it infringes on the right to bear arms and is ripe for abuse by vengeful partners, friends or family. Dozens of Colorado sheriffs have vowed to be “second amendment sanctuaries” and said they will defy the new red flag laws in Colorado. The man who police took the weapon from said he was “contemplating doing something bad to myself” and that it was a “good thing they stopped me because it was not good,” according to the petition filed in court. He was armed with a 9mm handgun and voluntarily turned over a .45-caliber Springfield handgun. Click.


  • $10 million. The cost of each Super Bowl ad that Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg are planning to air.
  • 1 billion. The new, high-end estimate on the number of animals that were killed in the wildfires ravaging Australia.
  • $2.58. The national per-gallon average price of gasoline.
  • 52%. The percentage of Americans who approve of the House impeaching Donald Trump, according to a new Morning Consult poll.
  • 42%. The percentage of Americans who disapprove of the House impeaching Donald Trump, according to a new Morning Consult poll.
  • 51%. The percentage of Americans who disapprove of the Senate removing Donald Trump, according to a new Morning Consult poll.
  • 28%. The number of registered voters who could point out Iran on a zoomed-in map of the Middle East, according to a new Morning Consult poll.
  • 69%. The percentage of voters who said the strike that killed Soleimani makes war with Iran more likely, according to a new Morning Consult poll.
  • 50%. The percentage of voters who said the strike makes America less safe, according to a new Morning Consult poll.
  • 47%. The percentage of voters who strongly approve or somewhat approve of the airstrike that killed Soleimani, according to a new Morning Consult poll.

The wild map showing where people guessed Iran was:

Have a nice day.

Celebrities and activists across the world are taking action to give Australia a hand. All week, various fundraisers and donations have amounted to millions of dollars being sent to help supply resources to fight the fires and resources for the victims of the fire. Actor Chris Hemsworth donated $1 million. Elton John donated $1 million. A Bitcoin exchange donated $1 million. The heavy metal band Metallica donated $750,000. A model on Twitter raised over $750,000 with the rather unconventional  sending nudes to anyone who donated to an Australian charity and sent her proof of the donation. All the money is pouring into firefighters on the ground.

Subscribe to Tangle

Join 100,000+ people getting Tangle directly to their inbox!