The extra-judicial, political killing on Jan 3, 2020 of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force military commander and strategist Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike which targeted a convoy of vehicles (Soleimani was aboard one of them) near the Baghdad International airport, has rendered West Asia- and, perhaps the entire world extremely vulnerable to a major flare-up in any part of the world where US offers military, or, even non-military soft targets like US diplomatic staff. This excludes no part of the globe. Of course, there are many other areas of concern for the US and its allies, such as cyber attacks, which, in turn can bring about complete communication and data paralysis. What could likely ensue is an Iran versus its adversaries flare-up which could turn into ‘no holds bar without predetermined timelines’ slugfest.
No holds bar would mean attacks by either party in any part of the world, even at a juncture where the adversaries mistakenly believe that peace and tranquility have been restored.
Ever since the US withdrew from the 2015 P5+1 (5 UNSC members + Germany) Iran nuclear accord and re -imposed economic and military sanctions on Iran it has fine tuned its Iran strategy with a view to teaching Tehran a lesson for its anti-America/ anti US allies/ anti Israel initiatives across West Asia in places such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon and the US has nurtured a desire for regime change ever since the revolution in Iran after the collapse of the pro-US Shah of Iran i.e. Mohammad Reza Pehalvi regime in 1979 and following its replacement with an anti-America establishment dictated by the theocratic Ayatollahs.
Iran Withdraws from the 2015 Nuclear Accord:
Iran, on January 5, 2020, has stated that it would no longer abide by any of the limits of the 2015 nuclear pact. 1 The portends are so ominous that Israel and the other US allies in West Asia –would be compelled to go back to the drawing board for a tailor-made Iran strategy.
Why was Soleimani killed ?
According to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “Iran was actively plotting measures which would have killed dozens, if not hundreds of Americans”. The Pentagon has opinioned that • after Iran’s attack on a US drone, • Iran sponsored attack on Saudi Oil facilities, and • the killing of a US contractor by Iranian sponsored proxies, Iran got so emboldened that it tended to be misguided by its overt and covert belligerence which, it believed, was potent enough to confuse American strategists about the precise kind of US retaliation and its appropriate timing.
As far as the timing of the expected US response, the Iranians were under the impression that President Donald Trump’s policy, in accordance with his campaign promises was one of withdrawals and de-escalation from countries which had a heavy deployment of US troops, such as, Afghanistan and Syria- and this would drive the US to desist from initiating any precipitate action. More so, on the eve of US presidential election. And, this ‘comfort zone’ which Iran had been led into, encouraged it and its proxies to hit American interests without let, or hinder.
It is pertinent to mention that the 62 year old Soleimani, is not just a war planner and an expert West Asia hand but an extremely skillful negotiator. He has cobbled international support from many Gulf countries and Russia and been a points-person between Iran and the Hezbollah.
Soleimani had 600 Americans killed during the war in Iraq. In the 1990’s Soleimani laid out a concrete action plan for the Iranian backed militia Hezbollah to ensure that Israel is forced to end its occupation of South Lebanon-this daunting challenge was effectively achieved by 2000.
Soleimani worked wonders for the Bashar al Assad led regime in Syria. But for him, the divisions within the rank and file of the Syrian Army would have forced some of Assad’s detractors to launch a coup d’etat against the Syrian dictator. It was Soleimami’s robust strategy which facilitated a combined Iran-Russia plan of action which enabled the Assad led Syrian regime to continue in office. And more importantly, facilitate the complete rout of ISIS from Syria.
The US and its allies, in fact owe a debt of gratitude primarily to Soleimani and, secondly to the Kurdish Pechmerga fighters for the defeat of the ISIS from Syria.
Iran is bound to avenge this brazen US onslaught, the precise means to be adopted to achieve this objective will be determined sooner, rather than later. According to West Asian experts such retaliation will be done by Iran’s proxies in the Gulf region, rather than by Iran itself. US says it has factored in the above threat before having Soleimani killed.
It is quite obvious that Iran will definitely avenge this ‘mis-adventure’ by the Pentagon. There is no reason to expect that Iran will exercise any restraint, or, to subscribe the naiveté that an American attack such as the above would lead Tehran to the negotiation table. In fact, the international community and many of US allies such as Saudi Arabia have called all sides for restraint.
There are multiple ways in which Iran’s reprisal can be achieved. Tankers loaded with hydro-carbons passing through the Strait of Hormuz can make Iran take a “bull’s eye hit” Energy trade and Commerce could get pressured, if not completely strained thereby adversely impacting global economies. Of course attacks on the Oil facilities of West Asia located US allies is another option for Iran. Cyber attacks by Iran could cripple the data and communication network of Iran’s adversaries. And, therefore, these are not ruled out. There are soft targets like attacks on US- or, European diplomats and embassies.
In Case the US is Attacked:
In case any US asset is attacked by Iran, or, its proxies, the US has vowed to initiate devastating counter-attacks and 52 sites have already been chosen for such attacks. These attacks will be ‘fast and hard’ according to the US president. One of the triggers of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Iran will need to think more seriously whether Solemani is as important. Retaliating in a huff can be counterproductive.
Iran Abandons 2015 Nuclear Deal over killing of Gen Soleimani by Nasser Karimi, Jon gambrel and Zeina Karam : TIME magazine of Jan 6, 2020