The killing of the head of special forces of Iran, Qassem Soleimani, has to be the biggest gamble for Trump since he has come into power. Many believe the killing of Soleimani at the height of tensions with Iran, the US has only played into the politics of madness.
Donald Trump, who persistently campaigned on taking the US out of ‘endless wars’ in the middle-east now risks initiating a new one against Iran or its proxies. In Afghanistan, Trump hasn’t had much success to boast about so in the short term it helps him to be hailed as a strong, decisive hero among his people and to give out the message along his election trail that ‘No one messes with America’.
Abrupt Killing of Soleimani – leader of a state military – without congressional approval, displays little regard to the war power resolution enacted in 1973, a fraction of which states that presidents can only introduce forces into hostility after congress has authorized using force or if the nation has been attacked, let alone international law.
Trump threatens to target 52 sites in Iran if Tehran retaliates by targeting Americans. Iran has vowed to take an even-bigger step to step away from the nuclear deal
Trump in 2011 long before he was elected, mocked President Obama to start a war with Iran to win the presidential election and called him a weak negotiator. Trump’s attempt to bring the US at the brink of major escalation with Iran refutes his reputation as a good negotiator which he used as a point against what Obama lacked but the attack on Soleimani presented him with an opportunity to gain a point over his predecessor as a ‘Tough guy’ who finally took a step.
Secretary of state Mike Pompeo considers the killing as a way of getting closer to the negotiating table but it couldn’t be farther from the reality. They might receive applaud from Riyadh and Tel Aviv but the rest of the region has crossed its fingers and is holding its breath.
Trump administration has never resolved the inherent contradiction within their Iran policy putting maximum pressure on Iran while promising to get out of the ‘endless wars’ doesn’t go hand in hand. Taking a step as bold in the election year isn’t unprecedented for the US presidents. Trump is currently facing impeachment in the house of the Senate. Bill Clinton in 1998 when his impeachment was in the most heated up place, launched airstrikes on Iraq and the impeachment was delayed. Not to forget, for Clinton it was a re-election year as well.
Ego battles between these two nations is not limited to them and them alone, it’s the proxies, the country’s bases, average person fatality that makes it more horrifying. With Quds force, the external operations wing of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and the US military bases in Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait it’s the other nations that will have to bear the brunt for their proxies.
Iraq is first-in-line to the spill-over effect of Soleimani’s killing. After Soleimani’s killing on its soil and using its land for proxies, the Iraqi parliament voted in favor of expelling US forces. After this resolution, Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions and cut in the bills of billions of dollars to the country. Iraq is stuck between instability at home and US-Iran proxies.
Trump threatens to target 52 sites in Iran if Tehran retaliates by targeting Americans. Iran has vowed to take an even bigger step to step away from the nuclear deal. Hezbollah’s leader in Lebanon, Nasrallah said following Soleimani’s killing that it has vowed to scrap off America’s presence in the middle-east.
New developments and causalities in US-Iran tension can be too much for other countries to keep up with and not take sides
It should not be forgotten that retaliation can present itself in different forms when it comes to Iran and its allies. 28 years ago, when Hezbollah’s leader Sheikh Abbas Mosawi was assassinated by the Israeli Apache AH64 helicopter in Beirut, the Israeli embassy was attacked in Buenos Aires with a lot of fatalities exactly one month after Mosawi’s assassination. The message was clear that Hezbollah has the capability to attack Israeli interests across the globe. While Israel continued killing Hezbollah military commanders but it avoided killing any senior members. According to one report of Fox-news published on January 6, a person closely connected to US-Syria policy has told that Assad in Syria has used Soleimani’s killing as a major reason for anti-Israel sentiment in the country.
Hezbollah, a major Iran ally in Beirut through to Syria near Israel, Houthi rebels in Yemen and Shii forces in Iraq, can be more dangerous to the US and its allies than it can imagine.
China has cautioned restraint to both the countries and it only serves its interest right. China is caught up in a dilemma where it has a deep strategic partnership with Russia, they don’t want to provoke trump administration and its own interests are at stake in Iran. China will exercise so much as to adopt a balancing tone and ask its counterparts to have restraint but how effective it can be will unfold as the day goes by. New developments and causalities in US-Iran tension can be too much for other countries to keep up with and not take sides.
In spite of billions of dollars Iran’s rivals have used for western machinery, Iran for a fraction of that cost and having been sanction-bound has managed to present itself across the region into a position of strategic advantage.
Naila Mahsud is a Pakistani political and International relations researcher, with a focus on regional politics and security issues. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.