Tuesday Briefing: U.S. Weighs a Response to the Drone Strike


President Biden must decide how far he is willing to go after a drone strike killed three U.S. soldiers at a base in Jordan on Sunday. He vowed to respond to the attack, which he blamed on militant groups backed by Iran, but retaliation could risk a wider war.

The hostile drone slipped through because a U.S. drone was returning at the same time. That caused confusion over whether the hostile drone was friendly and delayed the activation of air defenses, U.S. officials said.

Until now, Biden had carefully calibrated his responses to the more than 150 attacks by Iranian-backed militias on U.S. forces in the region since Oct. 7. But this is the first attack in which American troops have died, and U.S. officials say a different level of response is warranted.

His options are either unsatisfying, or very risky.

Biden could order strikes on the proxy forces, a major escalation of the attacks it has already conducted in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. But those strikes haven’t deterred the Iran-backed militias. He could also go after Iranian suppliers of drones and missiles, perhaps even inside the country’s territory. But that could open another front in the war.

Yesterday, Iran tried to distance itself from the attack when a foreign ministry spokesman said that the militias “do not take orders” from Iran.

Israel-Gaza: More than a dozen countries have suspended some funding to UNRWA, the U.N. aid agency for the Palestinians, since Israel accused its employees of participating in the Oct. 7 attacks. Details have emerged about the employees. One is said to have kidnapped a woman; another allegedly took part in a massacre at a kibbutz.

A Hong Kong court yesterday ordered the liquidation of Evergrande, once China’s biggest real estate firm. The court decision is likely to reverberate through China’s beleaguered property sector and also shake financial markets that are already skittish about China’s economy.

The company defaulted in 2021 and is more than $300 billion in debt, a sum far greater than most believe its assets are worth. And the dismantling will be long and protracted. Creditors are likely to struggle to get their money back and foreign investors will also be watching closely to see if their long-held belief that China will treat them fairly is true.

Stocks: Officials are scrambling to find policy measures to shore up confidence in financial markets in China and Hong Kong after the Evergrande news delivered a blow. On Sunday, they moved to stop short selling, which lets investors bet against a stock.

As Donald Trump speeds toward the Republican nomination — while facing 91 criminal charges — President Biden is moving quickly to pump energy into his re-election bid. He’s hosting rallies in battleground states and trying to draw a sharp contrast with his slightly younger rival. (Biden is 81; Trump is 77.)

The Biden campaign plans to paint Trump as a mortal threat to the country’s government and civil society. They are banking on fears of another turbulent Trump administration outweighing worries about Biden’s age. And they’re going after endorsements from elected officials, influencers and even — they hope — Taylor Swift.

Gas stations in the American South — particularly those run by immigrants — often sell far more than fuel. Customers can pick up samosas and shotgun shells, or a garlic butter shrimp banh mi to go with a lottery ticket and a full tank. A photojournalist who grew up in the South documented them in a new book.

“These places hold great mystery,” she said. “You’re rolling down the road and they catch your visual attention. Then you wonder what’s behind that glass door when you hear that little bell ring.”

“Godzilla Minus One” was billed as an action spectacle, but the Japanese film is largely a meditation on sorrow and survival in the wake of World War II. Esther Zuckerman notes that the film establishes a conversation with Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.”

Like Godzilla, “The Boy and the Heron” relies on the fantastical to impart messy, human truths about trauma and memory. Both films, in their way, touch on the Japanese perspective on surviving brutal destruction, a perspective that’s absent in “Oppenheimer,” which documents the invention of the atomic bomb.

“Just as ‘Oppenheimer’ is an example of the West still wrestling with its responsibility for destruction during World War II,” Esther writes, “Japan is doing the same, but in its versions, the monsters are not all of the human variety.”

Source : Nytimes