By Jonathan Davis
Following President Trump’s order to target and kill the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, many in the United States and the West have been opining that Iran will strike back at a time and place of its choosing.
Now granted, some of the chatter is politics: Democrats, especially, have been critical of the president’s decision with 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden flatly declaring that the attack is going to unleash Iranian ire.
Not unexpectedly, the Iranians have already publicly vowed to avenge the killing. Fox News reported:
A senior military official in Iran threatened an attack on some 35 “American targets,” including “destroyers and warships” near the Persian Gulf Friday night, promising to seek revenge for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, according to a report.
The latest threat against the U.S. came late Friday night from senior Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a day after top Iranian military general Soleimani was wiped out by an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport.
A lot of this rhetoric is for public consumption. Obviously, Iranian leaders have to give their own people something to rally around, especially after weeks of unrest following dramatic price increases for gasoline (which is a result of U.S. sanctions).
That doesn’t mean the Iranians can’t or won’t retaliate, using their own forces or via proxies. But killing a large number of Americans or substantially damaging a U.S. warship would bring the wrath of Trump, along with the backing of most Americans — and destruction of Iran-based targets.
But in reality, the regime really doesn’t have a lot of options. Ali Mamouri, writing in Al-Monitor notes that as well, adding a detail little reported in American media — that four other top Iranian generals were also killed, along with Soleimani:
This presence of this number of important people altogether indicates that they had been planning something very big, probably against the US after the latter attack on PMU bases in northern Iraq and Syria. This was what US officials confirmed as well. US President Donald Trump said “We took action last night to stop a war” and Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s main congressional advisers, called the operation a “preemptive, defensive strike planned to take out the organizer of attacks yet to come.”
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council had its special meeting about the incident, which was led by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the first time. The council announced after the meeting that “Iran will take revenge at the suitable time and place,” which indicates Iran is not willing to escalate in the near future.
In fact, the economic hardship in Iran — in addition to the challenges the government is facing internally — would not allow Tehran to increase the tension. Iran’s past conduct against Israel strikes on Iranian bases in Syria also shows it will not seek revenge if its national security and interests are in danger.
From the US side, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for reducing the escalation, saying, “I reiterated our commitment to de-escalation.” US President Donald Trump also indicated that Iran should take up negotiation instead of confrontation, tweeting, “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!”
This all indicates that Iran and its proxies in the region most likely would not seek revenge in the near future and — in regard to Iraq, in particular — would not lead Iraq to fall into a civil war or mass destruction, because it would lose even more in Iraq if it takes such a risk.
He also suggested that the Iraqi parliament would not vote to expel U.S. troops from the country, but it actually did so on Sunday. But as Fox News reported, only about 180 parliamentarians — mostly majority Shiites — were on hand; Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers, who opposed the idea, skipped the vote. Plus, it was a resolution, not a law.
As Mamouri noted further, the loser in expelling the U.S. military presence will be Iraq; aligning with Iran in any meaningful way will alienate Baghdad government from most of the world.