Today's D Brief: Iran attacks Israel; US helps down missiles; What if Ukraine loses?; Killer robots are here; And a bit more.

The Iranian military conducted its first-ever direct attack on Israel this weekend when Tehran and its proxies across the region launched about 300 armed drones and missiles from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen toward Israeli targets around midnight Sunday morning local time. 

Israel’s military claims 99% of projectiles were shot down thanks to the varied work of air defense systems including the Iron Dome, Arrow 2 and 3 systems, David’s Sling, and fighter jets. 

Early reactions: “The fact that Israel’s air defense proved to be superior does not change the brutality of Iran’s attack,” Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said Sunday. His Iranian counterpart Amir Saeid Iravani told the UN Security Council Tehran “does not seek escalation or war in the region,” but if attacked, it would “respond to any such threat or aggressions vigorously and in accordance with international law.”

Israel’s Nevatim and Negev air force bases were reportedly hit, with a runway and a C-130 aircraft among the targets struck at the former location, according to ABC News

“The Iranian military operation against Israel was limited and aimed at squadrons of F-35 aircraft,” Tehran’s foreign minister reportedly said afterward. Iran believes those aircraft were used to attack the Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1, killing nearly a half dozen Iranians, including senior officials from the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

At least 80 of the drones and a half dozen ballistic missiles were shot down or intercepted by U.S. forces in the region, officials from Central Command said Sunday. Some of those U.S. elements were moved closer to Israel in the days ahead of the attack, President Biden said in a statement Saturday. Iran is believed to have fired about 120 ballistic missiles at Israel, about half of which “failed to launch or crashed” short of their targets, U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal

“Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” Biden said. “While we have not seen attacks on our forces or facilities today, we will remain vigilant to all threats and will not hesitate to take all necessary action to protect our people,” he added. 

Biden joined G7 leaders in condemning the attack in a joint statement Sunday. They also warned Iran that it risks “provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation. This must be avoided,” they said, and pledged “to work to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation.” Coverage continues below the fold...

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to help put down the insurrection at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, that began what we now know as the American Civil War.

Israeli-Iranian tensions are “not over yet,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Sunday. “Whoever harms us, we will harm them,” he said, and promised to “do so level-headedly and with determination.”

By the way: Just hours before the drone and missile attack, Iranian special forces hijacked another ship in the Strait of Hormuz, the Portuguese-flagged container vessel MSC Aries as it traveled from the UAE to India. MSC leases the seized vessel from Gortal Shipping, which is an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime. And “Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer,” Reuters reported. 

According to Iran’s foreign ministry, “The vessel was diverted into Iran's territorial waters as a result of violating maritime laws and not answering calls made by Iranian authorities,” a spokesman said Monday. 

With 17 crew members from India, Iran is now working to ease tensions with New Delhi, the BBC reports. The detained crew also includes citizens from Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia and Estonia, White House officials said Saturday. 

White House POV: “Seizing a civilian vessel without provocation is a blatant violation of international law, and an act of piracy by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson, writing on social media. 

This afternoon in Washington, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is to visit Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his team for talks at the Pentagon. This is Sudani’s first trip to Washington since he was elected in 2022. And as we noted last week, it also comes amid a nearly two-month lull in attacks by Iran-backed militants against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria—pausing a four-month streak of almost 200 such attacks, one of which killed three troops and wounded more than 40 others in late January.

Europe is planning for what happens if Ukraine loses. It’s ugly, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports. For example, “The Russians have actually managed to really ramp up the defense industry capability, put it on a war footing,” Hanno Pevkur, Estonia’s Defense Minister, told reporters Friday. “Then the unfortunate and quite dark logic arises from that: Once you've done all these things, once you’ve ramped up your economy or put it on a war footing, then there's not an easy way of going back. So they will probably have to maximize,” he said. Read on, here.

Filter bubbles and echo chambers: Who do you trust when it comes to Ukraine? A recent CBS poll conducted last week revealed four out of five Republicans (79%) say they trust Donald Trump for accurate information about Ukraine—while only a third (33%) say they trust journalists actually deployed inside Ukraine’s war zone. (In contrast, 74% of Democrats said they trust war-zone reporters). 

Among that same group of Republicans, 60% said they trust the Pentagon (which earned 80% trust among Democrats), and 56% said they trusted “conservative social media/podcasts/websites.” (Similarly, Dems registered 51% trust in “progressive” media.) 

There’s also this: “Three in 10 Americans say they don't remember the Cold War well enough to say whether the U.S. won or lost,” CBS reports. And those who don’t remember it “are less likely to back U.S. aid to Ukraine now,” according to the survey of almost 2,400 people. Details, here

Lastly today: The AI revolution is already here, and the Pentagon needs to grapple with it. Armed robots are now roaming battlefields and AI algorithms are picking targets, writes New America’s Peter Singer. He cites Ukraine’s Saker Scout quadcopters that are designed to operate without human oversight, unleashed to hunt in areas where Russian jamming prevents other drones from working; and Israel’s various AI-powered targeting “decision aids.” Read that, here.