Iran wants a war after US kills Qassem Suleimani

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Iranian leaders issued strident calls on Friday for revenge against the United States after the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in an overnight airstrike at the Baghdad airport.

The strike spurred mass displays of public mourning by Iran and its network of allies across the Middle East.

General Suleimani, a powerful strategist who represented Iran’s influence across the region, was killed by an American drone at Baghdad airport, in an attack that had been authorized by President Trump and that ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran. The death threatened to tip the country’s shadow conflict with the United States and its partners across the region into a new war.

General Suleimani was the head of the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades.

His death is a considerable blow to Tehran, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for retaliation on Friday and for three days of national mourning. The various forms of Iranian counter-attack would doubtless have been made clear to President Donald Trump before he approved the order to target Major General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike at Baghdad airport.

America’s commander-in-chief had warned Tehran it would pay a “very big price” after pro-Iranian militiamen stormed America’s embassy in the Iraqi capital on New Year’s Eve and in the wake of a rocket attack that killed a US contractor.

Will it be satisfied with hitting back at the United States in the wider Middle East region via its proxy forces – a move that might prevent a direct confrontation between the two sides?

Or will the regime choose to strike US interests directly?

It is highly unlikely that any attempt will be made to launch a conventional military attack on US soil, such as with a cruise missile – a reminder of the geographic advantage the US holds. But that does not rule out the possibility of cyber strikes.

Will it be satisfied with hitting back at the United States in the wider Middle East region via its proxy forces – a move that might prevent a direct confrontation between the two sides?

Or will the regime choose to strike US interests directly?

It is highly unlikely that any attempt will be made to launch a conventional military attack on US soil, such as with a cruise missile – a reminder of the geographic advantage the US holds. But that does not rule out the possibility of cyber strikes.

The killing of Gen Soleimani marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack, but a statement from the Pentagon said Gen Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.
Suleimani, who ran Iranian military operations in Iraq and Syria, was hit by the drone strike while local allies from the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) drove him from Baghdad airport. The de facto leader of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a close Suleimani associate, was also killed in the attack.

“General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” a Pentagon statement said. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

Minutes before the announcement, Trump tweeted a US flag without comment. Later, the White House put out a statement saying the strike was a “decisive defensive action” carried out “at the direction of the president”.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, ordered three days of mourning and vowed that the US would face “severe revenge” for the killing.
However, Suleimani’s death leaves Iraq and the region on the brink of a new upsurge in violence, with Trump’s and Khamenei’s moves and counter-moves hard to predict.

Trump authorized the strike at a time when the US Congress was in recess, and the White House framed the action as an act of self-defense in the context of counter-terrorism operations. But Democrats and perhaps some Republicans in Congress will see it as an us urpation of the legislature’s authority to decide matters of war and peace.

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