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Soleimani strike will be felt well beyond Middle East

21 Comments
By Peter Apps

In killing Iran's Major-General Qassem Soleimani in an air strike near Baghdad's international airport, Donald Trump has taken a geostrategic risk it is almost impossible to imagine from any other U.S. president. Its hugely unpredictable impact is already being felt well beyond the Middle East – and right now, no one can really know what that will mean.

In some respects, of course, the strike is simply the latest escalation in a years-long proxy confrontation that has raged across the Middle East for almost two decades. From Syria to Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and beyond, it is a confrontation that has already killed hundreds of thousands. Throughout the last year in particular, it has been clear that both Iran and its adversaries had been tearing up the rule book, with high-profile attacks on tankers in the Gulf and Saudi energy infrastructure. And with retaliatory U.S. strikes on Iranian-backed militia in Iraq this week – and what looked to be an attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in response – matters were already entering uncharted territory.

In the short-term, it is unclear whether the unilateral U.S. action – which will have shocked many in Washington DC as much as anywhere else – will make the region more or less violent. Soleimani – in some ways the second most powerful man in Iran, and the chief architect of its international military operations– would normally have been the key decision-maker behind any response. Multiple forces in Tehran and elsewhere will be scrambling for advantage after his death, and while some will want to unleash regional chaos as part of that, others may be deterred into being more restrained.

The United States says Soleimani and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force he commanded were preparing further attacks on U.S. diplomats, forces and contractors. The United States has made clear it was concerned over embassy safety in particular, with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley warning anyone who attempted to storm it would run into a "buzz saw" of U.S. military force. Whether that is now more or less likely in the immediate term will depend on how power games in Tehran play out, and whether elements potentially even more hawkish than the slain general are able to call the shots.

Other potential responses could include further attacks on shipping in the Gulf – although that would give those in the United States – as well as Israel and the Gulf states – who have long wanted to devastate Tehran's military capability the opportunity for action.

In the longer run, an Iranian response is inevitable – potentially igniting a full-on regional war. Just as important is the response of America's local and global allies and adversaries. Russia and increasingly China already looked as if they were being sucked into that regional face-off, announcing joint naval drills with Tehran only days ago. Whether those would still go ahead if U.S. and Iranian forces are openly trading blows is far from certain – but most likely, Russian President Vladimir Putin in particular will be tempted to double down to back Tehran. The two nations have a complex relationship, but have been relatively effective allies in Syria in particular, even as they also wrestle between themselves for influence and access across the Middle East.

America's allies will also be abruptly considering their position. European states in particular have long voiced concerns over Trump's increasingly hawkish take on Iran, and will have no appetite for being sucked into any outright war. Failing to back Trump, however, will unquestionably exacerbate already growing strains between the United States and its allies.

Iraq's government is in a particularly complex position, having both U.S. and Iranian forces on its soil. So are the growing protest movements within both Iran and Iraq. Soleimani had been seen as one of the architects of recent crackdowns against such dissidents – but that does not mean they will have any huge enthusiasm for the sort of U.S. action Trump has just demonstrated.

None of that looks likely to bother the U.S. president. Ever since taking office, he has chafed against the influence of more established foreign policy and military figures who reports say he clearly feels have been trying to control him. Almost all – including former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis – have now left his administration. As he heads into a presidential election and impeachment hearings, his political calculation may be that appearing militarily strong and decisive will appeal to his political base, even as it alarms many others.

That may point to the most alarming lesson of last night's strike and whatever follows. More than anyone else, even Putin, Soleimani was an example of a leader who had no compunction about ignoring what rules might exist and unleashing bloody mayhem to suit his ambition and agenda. It is behaviour becoming more internationally normalised by the day, and no one knows where it will end.

Peter Apps is a writer on international affairs, globalisation, conflict and other issues. He is the founder and executive director of the Project for Study of the 21st Century; PS21, a non-national, non-partisan, non-ideological think tank. Paralysed by a war-zone car crash in 2006, he also blogs about his disability and other topics. He was previously a reporter for Reuters and continues to be paid by Thomson Reuters. Since 2016, he has been a member of the British Army Reserve and the UK Labour Party, and is an active fundraiser for the party.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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In the longer run, an Iranian response is inevitable – potentially igniting a full-on regional war. 

Or maybe the Iranian people will finally get fed up enough to overthrow this Islamic dictatorship.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

SerranoToday 09:43 am JSTIn the longer run, an Iranian response is inevitable – potentially igniting a full-on regional war. 

Or maybe the Iranian people will finally get fed up enough to overthrow this Islamic dictatorship.

There's been rioting over there for some time. But this stupid strike won't help matters one bit.

Almost everybody hated Saddam Hussein but the Iraqis fought back because they don't like being invaded by foreigners. OTOH, when Gaddafy's forces were mass raping and using nerve gas on Libyan rebels, the latter asked for outside help and they got it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Trump has made the error of actually helping the Iranian Mullahs by uniting the people against America during a time of widespread public unrest.

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This is what happens when incompetency and corruption are allowed to rule the White House.

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We none of us know the Iranian mindset or the convoluted internal power struggles well enough to predict the future. What can be guessed (and I use the word deliberately) is that the regime will see it as weakness if they don’t do something that they can portray to their own power base and the population at large as striking back. How nuanced that will be will depend on numerous factors outwith our purview. Likewise the US reaction to such. Trumps renowned unpredictability may weigh in the US favour, making precise calculation of his reaction for the Iranians, far less clear than with previous Presidents. But that may not run if the decisions are taken by the extreme religious nutters in the Iranian Government who believe god is on their side and any sacrifice by the people is worth it (after all they will go to paradise so what have they got to complain about ! ).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There's been rioting over there for some time. But this stupid strike won't help matters one bit.

It is an odd argument that the Left is making in which they have concluded that the Iranian regime will retaliate for Suleimams death by attacking and killing more more Americans.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is an odd argument that the Left is making in which they have concluded that the Iranian regime will retaliate for Suleimams death by attacking and killing more more Americans.

This is not a "Left/Right" argument. Non-partisans and adults should be able to discuss this without the labels.

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But this stupid strike won't help matters one bit.

Yeah we should just give up taking out terrorists.

This is what happens when incompetency and corruption are allowed to rule the White House.

No, this is what happens when you have a real leader in the White House.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

dmacleodJan. 5 01:54 am JSTIt is an odd argument that the Left is making in which they have concluded that the Iranian regime will retaliate for Suleimams death by attacking and killing more more Americans.

This is not a "Left/Right" argument. Non-partisans and adults should be able to discuss this without the labels.

Just like in Iraq. Many people hate the dictatorship but when a foreign power invades they will resist. Iranians want to overthrow their regime but stupid action only makes it all worse.

Nobody likes to be invaded by foreigners without asking for outside help, nobody.

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I do NOT agree with the drone assassinations, be they ordered by Bush, Obama (who holds the record, I think) or Trump.

That said, it is amazing to see how the MSM is now eulogizing this Soleimani guy. He is not a "decorated Iranian general" or "diplomot". He is the head of the Al Quods (= Jerusalem, implying the destruction of Israel) commando, which is responsible for many terror acts, not only against foreigners but also agains Iranian pro-democracy activists. And which was designated as a terrorist organization even by.... Obama himself. The hypocrisy is stunning.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Wolfpack:

It is an odd argument that the Left is making in which they have concluded that the Iranian regime will retaliate for Suleimams death by attacking and killing more more Americans.

Yes. Like with moving the embassy to Jerusalem. "Oh, now they will attack us" goes the chant. And how is that different from what they have been doing before?..... Crickets

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Iran warns Britain they too are also now a target.

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Trump warns Iraq if they they expel U.S. troops he will hit them with sanctions. Like America couldn't destroy the country anymore than it did already.

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zichi:

Trump warns Iraq if they they expel U.S. troops he will hit them with sanctions. Like America couldn't destroy the country anymore than it did already.

Oh, they can. Look at Libya to see how that looks. How strange that "Iraq" is always on the mind of the Trump haters (although Trump had nothing to do with the Iraq invasion), while Clintons/Obamas handiwork in Libya somehow does not seem to exist.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

In the longer run, an Iranian response is inevitable – potentially igniting a full-on regional war. 

Or maybe the Iranian people will finally get fed up enough to overthrow this Islamic dictatorship.

Yea, maybe after we kick the Great Orange NEOCON out of the White House so we don't give the Mullahs the war they want to solidify the country...

Trump has made the error of actually helping the Iranian Mullahs by uniting the people against America during a time of widespread public unrest.

+1

It is an odd argument that the Left is making in which they have concluded that the Iranian regime will retaliate for Suleimams death by attacking and killing more more Americans.

Left? This is the war the NEOCONs have been salivating over for 20 years - they're just looking for another excuse to send the B2s over Tehran - they're hoping Iran retaliates...

This is what happens when incompetency and corruption are allowed to rule the White House.

No, this is what happens when you have a real leader in the White House.

Uh-huh - so you're changing your entire rationale now and saying you voted FOR a NEOCON in 2016? One that would increase our number of troops in the ME and provoke a THIRD WAR?

This is what happens when you have a Moron and Idiot with the understanding of a fifth grader - just ask Tillertson, McMaster or Mattis...

Oh, they can. Look at Libya to see how that looks. How strange that "Iraq" is always on the mind of the Trump haters (although Trump had nothing to do with the Iraq invasion), while Clintons/Obamas handiwork in Libya somehow does not seem to exist.

Maybe that's because your boy said the Iraq War was the greatest foreign policy mistake in US history. And campaigned on stopping endless wars...how come he didn't follow his own advice?

Trumpers get played by their Sainted Leader again - says he's bringing the troops home and they'll be no more US blood in the sand. Sure Donnie, and Mexico has paid for the wall and everyone has seen your tax returns...

The current clown in the White House is going to get a whole bunch of people all over the Middle East killed...to include our brave US military personnel. But he doesn't care, to him and his supporters, they're expendable...

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Trump will get bored of this in a few weeks when it starts to affect his golf & 'executive time' schedule. Like his supporters he couldn't identify Iran or Iraq on a map, much less care about them. Just another bunch of people to hate and blame stuff on. Might as well use the toys and bomb them for a bit, makes for good dramatic flag waving chest thumping cowboy stuff on right wing TV. Gives him a chance to look semi presidential for a bit instead of being a low IQ failed businessman charity thief sexual predator Putinbot.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just another bunch of people to hate and blame stuff on. Might as well use the toys and bomb them for a bit, makes for good dramatic flag waving chest thumping cowboy stuff on right wing TV. Gives him a chance to look semi presidential for a bit instead of being a low IQ failed businessman charity thief sexual predator Putinbot.

That's how that juvenile responds to everything. Traitortrump is sulking that he got an impeachment for Christmas. This is just another bullying act from somebody with a 7th grade maturity who loves to talk trash about everyone. He is the kid you knew in middle school who badmouthed football teams and rock groups in the gym class locker room in order to appear to look 'macho', 'knowledgeable' and 'tough'. He never amounted to a hill of beans and he never will!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Soleimani strike will be felt well beyond Middle East

Of course it will. Especially the central banksters of the world grinning while holding a gin-n-tonic singing their favorite song “we luv the petrodollar and the petrodollar rules!”

I get a kick out of the (never seen a war they don’t like) MSM putting this ALL on Trump, but what would expect from corporations anyway? This is US foreign policy going back decades people.

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I get a kick out of the (never seen a war they don’t like) MSM putting this ALL on Trump

Glad you're having fun. Fox seems to be putting this ALL on Trump too, and like you they are quite enjoying the prosepect of getting bogged down & blown up in Iraqistan again. Hopefully for them he can schedule it between the Superbowl and the Olympics. Is this on Trump's list of achievements yet? Must be no. 350 at least.

This is US foreign policy going back decades people.

Wasn't he elected to get you out of these oily Saudi Israeli swampy messes?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ClippetyClopToday 01:23 am JSTI get a kick out of the (never seen a war they don’t like) MSM putting this ALL on Trump

Glad you're having fun. Fox seems to be putting this ALL on Trump too, and like you they are quite enjoying the prosepect of getting bogged down & blown up in Iraqistan again

America is now in Vietnam #2.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And January 16, 2020 - the 29th anniversary of the start of Operation Desert Storm is coming up. So mark your calendars, armchair warriors + Trumpets. Get ready for some fun fun fun, maybe 24/7 like it was in 1991, on all channels. Then you can buy your corremorative t-shirts, coffee mugs and other crap to show your 'support'.

I remember the jingoistic cowboy spirit and crass commercialism of Desert Storm and it still utterly makes me SICK. It's repulsive.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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