Thursday briefing: Missiles fly after Trump broke Iran deal
Rockets hit Golan Heights and Israel bombs Syria … back to the future in Malaysia … and why the end of rising house prices is no bad thing.
Top story: Israel targets Iran’s forces in Syria, citing rocket attack
Hello – it’s Warren Murray with all the latest news.
Israel has said it attacked Iran’s forces across Syria overnight in response to Iranian rockets fired into the occupied Golan Heights. The flare-up comes after Donald Trump broke the nuclear deal with Iran known as the JCPOA despite being warned it could stoke hostilities in the region.
The attack on the Golan Heights, if confirmed, would mark the first time Iran’s military has fired rockets in a direct strike on Israeli forces, known as the IDF. About 20 rockets were fired by Iran’s elite Quds Force, said an IDF spokesman, adding that some but not all were intercepted.
Syrian state media confirmed Israeli missiles struck radar, air defence positions and ammunition warehouses. Fire from Israel also hit southern Syria’s Quneitra province, adjacent to the Golan Heights, it said. Israel said it attacked both Iranian forces and Syrian air defences, and declared it would not tolerate Iran establishing a permanent military presence there.
There were no reported casualties on either side. The occupied Golan Heights were captured from Syria by Israel in 1967. Israel’s PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, is a staunch ally of Trump and the occupying forces in the Golan Heights have been on high alert since the US president abandoned the Iran deal with Netanyahu’s strong backing.
Mahathir’s back – The former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad is, at time of writing, locked in a post-election battle to become at the age of 92 the world’s oldest prime minister. The electoral downfall of incumbent Najib Razak amid an enormous embezzlement scandal, at the hands of a doughty political veteran, might seem a straightforward outcome. But Mahathir did it by going into partnership with Anwar Ibrahim, a man he previously did his best to keep in jail. Mahathir says he will pardon and release Ibrahim, then cede the prime ministership to him after two years. There has been some last-minute argument just now over whether Mahathir can be sworn in today. Razak seems to have conceded defeat, but has questioned his rival’s right to be sworn in, and is reportedly offering inducements for MPs to switch sides. This is an unprecedented chapter in the country’s history and the situation is still developing.
Think-tankery of the day – Should society help men work less so that women can be paid more? The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says women fall behind in seniority and opportunities for promotion due to motherhood’s demands. Catherine Colebrook, IPPR chief economist, calls it the “motherhood penalty” and says: “For most occupations, men are in more senior, high-pay versions of the role than women … In short, men need to work fewer hours and women need to work more.” Apart from more flexible working to let men share the parenting, the IPPR’s State of Pay report also suggests automatic consideration for promotion and opening up senior positions to job sharing.
Haspel faces torture questions – Donald Trump’s pick for head of the CIA has dodged questions about where she stands on waterboarding these days. What if Trump wanted it done, Gina Haspel was asked at a Senate confirmation hearing. Her reply: “Senator, I would advise … I do not believe the president would ask me to do that.” Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders has refused to rule out stripping reporters of their credentials if the president does not like what they write. And the Trump-Russia investigator Robert Mueller has been looking into large payments by several major companies to Michael Cohen, the lawyer who funnelled “hush money” to Stormy Daniels over her alleged affair with the now-president. The payments to Cohen – in return for advising the likes of AT&T and Novartis about what Trump might do in office – highlight the inability of US laws to prevent secretive “shadow lobbying”, analysts say.
A very special place’ – National Trust rangers are rebuilding England’s highest war memorial, on Scafell Pike in the Lake District, to commemorate the centenary of the 1918 armistice. The cairn, 7.5 metres wide and situated 978 metres above sea level, is being pulled apart and restored by workers, some of whom have set up camp nearby.
The mountain was given to the trust by Lord Leconfield when the first world war ended, in memory of the thousands of men from the Lake District who gave their lives. The trust hopes the restoration effort will also draw attention to the uplands, their fragile ecology and the care needed to maintain them.
Moon, then Mars – Nasa is headed back to the moon under Donald Trump’s orders. But it won’t be a distraction from sending astronauts to the red planet, the head of the space agency has insisted. “We are doing both the moon and Mars in tandem and the missions are supportive of each other,” said Jim Bridenstine, a Trump ally who has never been into space. Bridenstine spoke at the opening of the annual Humans to Mars summit in Washington, where what sounds like a mix of space experts, interplanetary projectors and Martian real-estate speculators will debate how to make it all happen by the year 2033.
Lunchtime read: ‘End this fetish of rising house prices’
“Falling house prices are not disastrous, and only in a country with such a perverted relationship with bricks and mortar could they be seen as such.” Our economics editor, Larry Elliott, is in a celebratory mood after Britain’s house prices fell by 3.1% in April – the biggest drop in almost eight years.
“Ever-rising house prices are a curse,” he explains. “They are bad for social mobility. They are bad for young people. And they are bad for the economy. The billions that are spent pushing up property prices could be more productively invested elsewhere.” The danger, he argues, is that the government intervenes to boost the market. But he predicts a house-price crash is remote. “More likely, prices will stay where they are while incomes catch up.”
Barnardo’s, Britain’s largest children’s charity, has been brought in by Chelsea to oversee an independent investigation into the allegations of racism that have left the club facing the possibility of widespread legal action. Huddersfield Town’s sojourn back in the top flight was supposed to be fleeting, but a point squeezed despite incessant Chelsea pressure in a 1-1 draw will prolong their stay into a second year. On a busy night of Premier League action, Harry Kane’s goal purged Tottenham of any Champions League nerves in a 1-0 victory over Newcastle, Jamie Vardy and Leicester made 10-man Arsenal pay for their misdemeanours, and champions Manchester City shattered records in a 3-1 win over Brighton.
Manchester United have confirmed that Sir Alex Ferguson “no longer needs intensive care” after the brain haemorrhage he suffered on Saturday. Eddie Jones will today roll the dice and name an England squad missing 20 frontline players – including a number of British and Irish Test Lions – for the summer tour of South Africa. And the England and Wales Cricket Board has introduced the Rooney rulefor all national coaching positions to guarantee that at least one black, Asian or minority ethnic (Bame) candidate is interviewed during the recruitment stage.
Asian stocks have risen with energy shares leading the way. Crude oil prices rose after Donald Trump’s decision to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran.
The pound has been trading at $1.357 and €1.143 overnight.
The Mail, usually the defender of all things British, finds fault with the Westminster system today because it is not doing what the paper would like. It calls for the House of Lords to be axed because peers, umm, amended a bill … which is, of course, their prerogative and function. The Express trains its fire on “ringleader” the Duke of Wellington, who got farming subsidies: “Brexit wrecker lord and his EU handouts”.
The Guardian leads with ministers suspending a system whereby migrants using the NHS were automatically reported to the Home Office in case they were in the country illegally. The New Statesman doesn’t ordinarily get a mention here but, with Israel and Iran exchanging missile fire overnight, its front page looks terrifyingly prescient: “Israel v Iran – the coming war”. The Times goes with the fallout over Trump’s Iran decision: “Europe hits back at US over threat of sanctions”. The FT explains that EU leaders will press Trump to exempt European companies from sanctions if they continue to trade with Iran under the nuclear deal. The Telegraph tells us: “Medics to assess 999 patients by video” . Apparently patients would be asked to live-stream their injuries using their smartphones to help determine whether an ambulance is needed.
By Warren Murray