White House calls Iran attack ‘spectacular, embarrassing failure’

The White House also denied claims it had previous knowledge of the strikes.

By Andrew Bernard, JNS

The White House continued to push back against media reports that Iran gave Washington advanced warning of its Saturday night attack, calling those reports “ludicrous” and the attack an “embarrassing failure.”

John Kirby, the White House national security communications advisor, borrowed one of U.S. President Joe Biden’s favorite phrases on Monday to describe claims that the Islamic Republic previewed the strike for Washington.

“It’s malarkey,” Kirby said. “This attack failed, because it was defeated by Israel, by the United States and by a coalition of other partners committed to Israel’s defense.”

Turkey informed Washington about warnings from Iran about the forthcoming attack, Reuters reported on Sunday.

The Iranian foreign minister reportedly said that he provided neighboring countries and the United States with a 72-hour warning before the attack.

Kirby denied those reports.

“The United States had no messages from Iran or from anybody else that offered a specific timeframe or specific set of targets or the types of weapons that they were going to fire,” Kirby said on Monday.

“I’m not calling anybody a liar here. I’m telling you, from our perspective, what we knew and what we didn’t know,” he added.

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“The idea that Iran sent us an email or picked up the phone and told us what they were planning to do is just ludicrous. It didn’t happen.”

Kirby speculated that Iran may now be attempting to spin the attack as “some sort of small pinprick of an attack that they never meant to succeed.”

“You can’t throw that much metal in the air, which they did, in the timeframe in which they did it, and convince anybody realistic that you weren’t trying to cause casualties and you weren’t trying to cause damage,” he said. “They absolutely were.”

Before Saturday’s attack, Biden issued a one-word warning to Iran: “Don’t.” Kirby said that despite Iran going ahead with the attack, the Islamic Republic should take heed of the results.

“Iran utterly failed,” he said. “If I’m sitting in Tehran, I’m betting that President Biden takes it pretty seriously when he says, ‘Don’t escalate.’ He’s going to act to make sure that you can’t and they didn’t.”

“They fired an unprecedented amount of munitions, but how much of a success did they have?” Kirby added. “None. Zero. Very little infrastructure. It was an embarrassing failure for the supreme leader and for the IRGC.”

(The IRGC is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Washington has designated a foreign terror organization since 2019.)

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Iran’s attack prompted renewed calls for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to put forward a supplemental foreign aid package that would include billions for Israel’s defense.

Biden spoke with House and Senate leaders from both parties on Sunday, urging them to pass a final aid bill.

The Senate passed a $95 billion package in February with $14.1 billion for Israel, but Johnson previously said he would not accept that version because it fails to address security at the U.S. southern border.

The inclusion of $60.1 billion in aid for Ukraine is also controversial within the Republican caucus.

The House failed to pass a standalone Israel aid package in February, with a 250-180 vote. It needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Kirby said on Monday that the White House continues to reject that approach. “We are opposed to a standalone bill that would just work on Israel,” he said.