As expected, the responses to President Trump’s decision to eliminate Iranian General and Terrorist Qassem Soleimani has been mixed across the world. In the United States, Republicans have expressed support for the move, while Democrats have expressed frustration with both the move and the process, notably that Congress was not informed.
Across the world, the mix of reactions is similar. The German government reportedly supports the strike, but is urging new peace talks between the west and Iran to prevent further escalations. The United States has also been in contact with nations like Israel to increase readiness in the event of Iranian responses. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Parliament is set to vote to expel the United States from the nation, while Iran continues to make vague threats to respond to the United States by hitting military targets.
However, it is important to cut through the rhetoric and look at what is really going on in the region, on the ground, and the reality of what could possibly happen. This piece aims to provide real information on what could come next, and dispel the current dramatic talking points circling the world.
President Trump speaks at the White House on the strike on Soleimani. Watch his speech here.
“This is the next Archduke Ferdinand Moment and it will lead to World War III!”
No and no. The comments stem from the the 1914 assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was seen as the heir to the throne in Austria-Hungary. The assassination was carried out by Serbian terrorists, and led to Austria declaring war on Serbia. Major alliances across the European theater on both sides led to the quick increase in action. Neither claim fit in with the current situation.
While Soleimani was at face value a popular Iranian General, he was also designated as a terrorist by the United States, and had carried out numerous attacks in other states across the world. Soleimani is directly responsible for at least 600 American deaths in the Middle East, and plotted to kill the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the US in a crowded Washington DC restaurant. While some nations may not say it, most are glad Soleimani is gone, and they know that the United States was right to take him out.
As for the World War III claim, Iran does not have the alliances for such a war to happen. If Iran were to declare formal war, they would be alone, with likely only one ally or two. The United States on the other hand would likely have NATO, Israel and a number of Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Jordan who have lost soldiers to Iran’s Quds Force and their Hezbollah backed terrorists. The Iranians are smart enough to realize direct confrontation would be a disaster.
The United States Should Focus on De-Escalation
While the United States would win in direct conflict, that doesn’t mean we should even entertain the idea. The killing of Soleimani was justified, but the United States and its allies should do everything possible to prevent further escalation. Another ground conflict in the Middle East would be even more messy than Iraq and Afghanistan have been in the past two decades. President Trump has promised to work on pulling American troops out of the Middle East, which is the right move, we do not need to be sucked into another ground conflict in an even bigger nation.
However, this does not mean that Iran’s aggression and violence should go unchecked, which is why Soleimani was taken out after the attack on the Baghdad embassy, and before Soleimani could carry out another attack. The United States proved that under the Trump administration they will respond to Iranian threats.
Iran Won’t Engage in Direct Warfare, But They Will Retaliate
There is little question of this one. The Iranians know the government wouldn’t survive a ground war, but that doesn’t mean they can’t escalate tensions and make things difficult for the United States and its allies. A fact that is little known to the public but has complicated the situation in the Middle East for years is Iran’s direct funding, arming, and training of anti-Israel and anti-American militia forces across the Middle East for years. These militias, many linked directly to Hezbollah, have been Iran’s ground forces in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and have engaged in direct conflict with the United States. Some of the heads of these militias were also targeted in both the Soleimani strike and a separate strike the day after. If Iran does launch attacks in the Middle East, it will be through those forces.
It is also important for the international community to be on high alert for Iranian cyber attacks. Like Russia and North Korean, Iran is noted for having a significant cyber terror presence, and is constantly attempting to attack US Government interests via the web. Expect an increase in those attempts in the coming weeks, and maybe even an expansion to private and financial institutions across the US and Israel.
Unfortunately, we also cannot ignore the possibility of Iranian terror groups and the Quds Force attempting direct terror acts across the world as well. Iran has shown in the past it is not afraid to make such moves, and the United States and its allies should be on alert at all times.
The Deterrence Factor
While Republicans and Democrats disagree on the strike, former military officials are backing President Trump’s move. Former U.S. Commander and CIA Director David Petraeus stated that the killing of Soleimani may have help to “reestablish deterrence” in the region, which is the ultimate goal of such a strike by the Trump administration.
Overall, I believe that General Petraeus is correct, this move will not lead to a full ground war, but it will show the Iranians that attacking American soldiers will not be tolerated. The Iranians may continue to spew aggressive rhetoric, but at the end of the day they will back down, proving President Trump’s action to the proper course of action.
Either way, we should take extra time today to thank our Veterans and active service members across the world for their efforts in keeping the United States safe each and every day.
For more analysis on Iran, check out my new book “America 2020: The Grand American Political Landscape” available today on Amazon!