White House says Iran did not provide early warning of Israel attack — and didn’t mean for it to fail

The White House is strongly denying reports that Iran provided any advance warning of the massive aerial attack it sent towards Israel on Saturday, calling the suggestion that Tehran would have provided any information on its military plans “ridiculous”.

John Kirby, the president’s national security communications adviser, also took a page from President Joe Biden’s book of oft-used phrases by referring to reports of such warnings — through back channels or otherwise — as “malarkey”.

“We did receive messages from Iran, and they receive messages from us too, but there was never any message to us or to anyone else on the timeframe, the targets, or the type of response,” he said during a White House press briefing on Monday.

“I want to be clear, this whole narrative out there that Iran passed us a message with what they were going to do is ridiculous,” he later added.

According to US and Israeli officials, the attack launched by Tehran included more than 300 separate munitions, including drones, ballistic missiles and surface-to-surface cruise missiles.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesperson, said together with Israel’s allies and partners across the region they had intercepted the “vast majority” of weapons fired by Tehran and its’ proxies Saturday evening.

Mr Kirby said the successful defence of Israeli airspace was due not to any advance warning but to skill and technological prowess of both the Israeli military and the military forces of her allies.

“This attack was defeated thanks to our preparations to a coalition of committed partners and Israel’s remarkable defensive systems ... Israel today is in a far stronger strategic position than it was only a few days ago. Iran’s vaunted missile programme — something it is used to threaten Israel and the region — proved to be far less effective,” he said. “Israel’s defences, on the other hand, prove even better than many had long assumed. Israel’s defence was strengthened by a coalition of countries led by the United States and working together”.

The White House spokesperson also pointed out that the US had “never before so extensively and so directly defended Israel from attack,” and called on the House of Representatives to “urgently pass” the National Security supplemental appropriations bill which has already passed the Senate, as it would provide funding for both Israeli and Ukrainian air defence needs.

“That supplemental includes funding that the President requested for the Iron Dome and David’s sling system systems that saved countless lives this weekend and has saved many lives from Hamas and from Hezbollah rockets over the past six months,” he said.

“Passing that bill is the fastest and surest way to get Israel the aid it needs. And we must act urgently to replenish Israel’s air defences, just as Congress must act urgently to replenish pull replenish Ukraine’s air defences, which also continue to be attacked every single day with the same Iranian-made drones”.

The successful US-led defence of Israel against the Iranian attack is a sign that under Mr Biden, the US commitment to Israeli security remains strong despite tensions between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the latter’s conduct of Israel’s six-month-old war against Hamas in Gaza.

Last week, Mr Biden told Mr Netanyahu that US policy towards Israel’s six-month-old war against Hamas would depend on whether Israel can “announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers”. That pronouncement was made after an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen, one of whom was a US citizen.

At the time, Mr Biden called the airstrike against a trio of marked vehicles from the nonprofit “unacceptable”. He later told the Univision television network there was “no excuse” for Israel “to not provide for the medical and the food needs” of civilians in Gaza and called Mr Netanyahu’s approach to the war “a mistake”.

In a statement following the attack, Mr Biden said he’d again spoken to Mr Netanyahu to “reaffirm America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel”.

And on Monday, he said the US remains “committed to a ceasefire that will bring the hostages home and prevent the conflict from spreading” further during an Oval Office meeting alongside Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani.

He also said the US is still “committed to Israel’s security”.

But Mr Kirby also implied that that commitment will not lead Mr Biden to abandon his earlier demands to Mr Netanyahu, stating that the unprecedented attack on Israel from Tehran will not change American demands for more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza and suggesting that Mr Biden‘s ultimatum to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the treatment of civilians and aid workers also remains in place.

Earlier in the day said during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday, Mr Kirby had that Israel must continue to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza after the Iran attacks and suggested there is no change on the ultimatum that was given to Mr Netanyahu.

He acknowledged that aid flowing into Gaza has “increased ... quite dramatically” in the days since Mr Biden’s call with Mr Netanyahu and said more than 2,000 truckloads of food and other necessities have passed through various checkpoints into the territory.

“The aid is getting in, that’s important, but it has to be sustained,” he said.

“What we ... said was, [American] policy with respect to Gaza will have to change if we don’t see changes over time and have them sustained. So far, yes, they have been meeting the commitments they made to President Biden, they have been doing the things that the president asked them to do,” he said, “but we really need to see it sustained over time.”

And under questioning from The Independent at the White House briefing on Monday, Mr Kirby confirmed that the Biden administration considers Israel’s broader defensive needs to be separate and apart from how Israel is conducting the war in Gaza.

“You can be a staunch defender of Israel’s defence — and we are, and I think he proved that to a fairly well Saturday night— and still be able to have some tough candid conversations with the way in which they are fighting Hamas inside Gaza. And those conversations are continuing,” he said.

“I would argue that only a good friend can do what we did Saturday night and still be willing to have tough conversations with the Israeli government about the prosecution of the of the operations are conducting inside Gaza,” he added.