Just hours ago, Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles at Erbil and Ain Al-Asad Air Bases, both of which are located in Iraq under U.S. control. At the time that this article is published, we are unsure of how many casualties that this strike may have caused, though we know that the bases contained fewer soldiers than usual and were also poorly defended. Coming mere hours after Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned Americans to prepare for consequences, the missiles were launched as a direct response to the murder of General Soleimani in an operation aptly named “Operation Martyr Soleimani.” Not knowing the casualty count makes it difficult to anticipate President Trump’s response. If Americans were not harmed, there may still be a chance - to the delight of the global community - for him to work to reach a diplomatic solution. If there were Americans hurt in the strike, President Trump may feel as though there is no choice but to respond with aggression, which could quickly devolve into all-out warfare.
In the aftermath of the Soleimani assassination, policy analysts and citizens of the global community alike remained hopeful that Iran’s method of retaliation would be constrained to sanctions on resources or international condemnation of the United States’ actions. That optimism, unfortunately, has been dispelled with an immediately violent response from Tehran, rendering the conflict more pressing than many had imagined. Asian market indicators have slid within hours, foreshadowing the economic uncertainty that an escalation of this conflict will bring as parallels are drawn between it and some of the largest military conflicts of the 20th century.
President Trump’s proclamation over twitter that “all is well” in regards to the Iranian attack appears to be a facade more than truthful reassurance. Americans remain fearsome as they pray for their deployed loved one’s safety, and watch as thousands of brave soldiers flood airports across the country to begin active duty. We anxiously await further information on the status of the stationed Americans’ safety, as it will determine the future of Iranian-American relations.
The ball is now in President Trump’s court. He has the ability to de-escalate the situation, or take our country into war. Americans and Iranians alike now must await their fate: President Trump announced via Twitter that he would release a statement about the attacks today.
This article will be updated as new information is released.
Update, 5:15 PM
Earlier today, President Trump took to the podium to deliver an address to the American people amid international discomfort and deepening political rifts between Republicans and Democrats on how best to approach the situation with Iran. President Trump thankfully announced that there were no American casualties. After Iran’s post-airstrike explanation that they did not seek war, President Trump also added to his speech that Iran seems to be backing down. While this may bode well for the prospects of de-escalation of military conflict, the President’s address to the nation still leaves a sense of unease among careful listeners; Iran’s reluctance for military aggression shouldn’t be so easily construed as docility, as it is likely that Tehran will advance plans in the near future that contain subtler forms of retaliation - most likely economic. While military de-escalation sits on the horizon, geopolitical tensions between the two remains at greater heights than ever, with both countries posturing towards a more silent hostility.
In the midst of World War 3 memes and esoteric articles, it can be difficult to understand what the death of General Qasem Soleimani truly represents for American citizens and for the global community as a whole.
Qasem Soleimani was the commander of the most highly ranked military power in all of Iran: the Quds. The Revolutionary Guards Quds Force has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, as they were responsible for killing U.S. troops during the Iraq war. General Soleimani is also known to be very close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; many Middle Eastern analysts even go so far as to claim that he has the power similar to that of a Vice President. In America, on both sides of the aisle, he is characterized as a vicious murderer. However, among Iranians, he is known as a hero, and is celebrated for his work while fighting ISIS.
Despite the various comical Instagram posts, tweets, and TikToks depicting theoretical draft-dodging for World War 3, this action by the United States is unlikely to actually lead to war. After declaring the death of General Soleimani an “act of war,” Iran’s United Nations ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, assured that it would be met with “a harsh revenge.” The historical precedent, however, implies otherwise. According to Eric Edelman, a practitioner senior fellow at UVA’s Miller Center, “use of force or threat of force from the U.S. has more often than not led to Iran pulling back.” Though the strike on General Soleimani was an incredibly risky undertaking by the current administration, it is unlikely to lead to a measure as drastic as war because Iran knows that they would lose. They are less powerful, have a decidedly lesser number of weaker allies, along with the fact that many foreign powers have committed themselves to de-escalation in the face of this attack.
Though the Trump Administration has made a strategic mistake in deciding to kill General Soleimani, World War 3 is not going to suddenly break out in your backyard. What we can expect to see, instead, are smaller, targeted strikes on American troops.