Can Iran Not Respond to the U.S. Assassination of General Soleimani?

Can Iran Not Respond to the U.S. Assassination of General Soleimani?

In 2003, the US and Iran managed to draw a red line in Iraq and the Middle East in order to avoid any clashing that could lead to war.


Out of the many deals the US President has destroyed, he decided to attack Iranian bases in Iraq and, finally, ordering the murder of General Ghasem Soleimani, the leader of the Qods squad in the Revolutionary Guard.


For those you don’t know about Soleimani, a few things should be mentioned to show how important he was.

Soleimani was considered to be among the high level military diplomats within the Revolutionary Guard who were able to establish the aforementioned red lines in and since 2003. He was one of the very few Iranian military officials with any license to negotiate these deals with the Americans. Just a few hours after the assassination, the Iranian leadership appointed General Ismael Ghaani as the new head of the Qods squad. A general who is famous for his military thinking and his belief that the only way to deal with Americans in the region is through a complete removal of every single American soldier in the region and by sending their bodies back, his appointment sends a clear message to the Americans about what they can expect in the future.


General Soleimani is now considered to be a national and religious martyr, his status as hero exists not only for the vast majority of Iranians but also Shias and hundreds of thousands of others across the region. Following the latest speech by Sayed Hassan Nasrollah, Secretary General of Hezbollah in Lebanon, it is clear that not only Iranian followers of Soleimani will be seeking revenge both in cooperation with Iran and independently. Moreover, the attack on Soleimani resulted in uniting all the Shiite forces in Iraq, forces who have been squabbling amongst each other for influence and powers just days before the incident, and the first outcome has been to vote to expel all US forces to leave Iraq.


As devastating a blow as the death of Soleimani was to Iran, it also showed how Iran and their policies are not bound to a single man by replacing him within hours. Without this event, it would have likely been very difficult for Iranian allies to pass the bill that it needed in the Iraqi parliament. Now, Iranian allies in Iraq have an official legal umbrella to attack and oust American forces if they refuse to abide by the new law. To clarify the Iraqi outrage, the Iraqi Prime Minister explained that General Soleimani was on an official diplomatic visit to Iraq. He entered through Baghdad International Airport holding a diplomatic passport.

Of course, due to the various ties and connections that exist between Iraqi security services and the US, the Americans were also informed about his visit to Iraq, and the Iranians knew they’d be informed but due to the previous “red line” agreements they considered him safe. So talking about how this assassination was the result of intense intelligence operations or heroism were just nonsense.


Of course, by the Americans crossing the red line, Iran and their allies in the region can also cross these boundaries now and target any American diplomat or military official who intends to visit any country in the region. It is noticeable that, in their official speeches, Iranian officials insist on narrowing the scope of their threats to American military targets, but when it comes to attacking Americans now, all rules can be broken.

For many, they would not care if the target was American military or not – just by being American would be enough to satisfy the need for revenge. It seems that the advisors to Trump were either not well informed on the situation or, perhaps, they wanted to give Trump the “kiss of death”.

Even though many may think that Iranians are afraid of a war with the US, but the truth is that Trump has taken everyone to a dead end with no hope of returning. All doors to avoid this situation have been closed, and negotiation seems pointless. Some believe that Iran is in the best position to fight the Americans and they should do it before it is too late.


Now, the Iranian rulers are no longer thinking about whether they should respond or not, but instead to find what is the best form of revenge to take. Soleimani was a national and regional hero, and naturally the first thought would be to kill an equivalent American figure, but of course Americans no longer have national heroes, except of course in Hollywood.


In this situation, it may make more sense to aim for economic revenge instead. By making American business interests unmanageable in the region, and creating a situation where no Americans would dare to step foot in the region again, it would serve as a serious blow to American interests. They may even launch a large scale attack on US allies and Israel.

Iranians could count many quality American targets, but Iranians know that this was done for domestic American political reasons more than anything. Trump needed to do something big to escape impeachment and consume the media cycle.

Of course, Iran will not give Trump the easy headline he seeks, and will make their own moves on the geopolitical chess board instead of the poker table.

Emad Abshenass
Journalist, writer and Political Science professor (Iran)

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April 2024