The killing of Quds Force leader Qassim Soleimani and its aftermath turned into a huge, misleading farce. In this farce an important sector of American public officials, media, and others fell into the trap of a public relations campaign orchestrated by the Islamic Republic.
First, the elimination of Mr. Soleimani shows that the United States has power of deterrence and determination to fight its enemies; that it is not afraid of revenge, and that it would double down if necessary. This important element of deterrence was undermined by declarations made by some members of Congress (including speaker Pelosi) and presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who publicly expressed fear of the possibility of war.
The trauma of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is not only present in the minds of these American elected officials but as a result they are also sending the message that the United States’ ability to respond is limited. This not only cancels out the American power of deterrence but encourages the enemy, in this case Iran, to pursue whatever aggressive steps they want. For example, Adolf Hitler clearly took advantage of British fears of future war when he misled them and the French with the Munich Accords. In the case of Iran, the perception after the Iranian missile attacks against American bases in Baghdad was that many in the United States considered the attack legitimate in the face of U.S. “bad behavior” or “provocations” to use Pelosi’s own words.
The second trap in which America fell was the general belief among key members of Congress and important sectors in the media that the killing of Soleimani rallied and unified the Iranian people around the regime. That is a huge farce. As Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad pointed out in the Washington Post, the large funeral processions were the result of coercion by a totalitarian regime that only a couple of months ago killed hundreds of its own people who protested against the regime.
We should not be misled about Iran. Iran is not a legitimate regime and it is very much on the defense, terrified of regime change. A few months ago, Iranian protestors were demanding that their government cease foreign adventures and take care of domestic needs. Soleimani was viewed as a man who received more resources than anyone else at the expense of the Iranian people because he was the general in charge of the Quds Force, a division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in charge of overseeing and planning the Iranian regime’s foreign adventures and destabilizing activities. The Quds Force has become a source of resentment among Iranian people, not a unifying factor.
The fact is that massive protests erupted after the regime admitted responsibility for the crash of a Ukrainian commercial airline, which exploded in mid-air as a result of the missiles fired by Iran. Protests happened precisely because the regime is seen as negligent and reckless, which dismisses the argument that Soleimani turned into a catalyzer of national unity.
The United States should continue to fearlessly try to bring about regime change by supporting the opposition and their protests of the Iranian regime. However, it is important to consider that the regime has the guns and they know how to mercilessly repress. Regime change is not guaranteed. Likewise,
it is important not to underestimate Iran’s ability to cause damage to Americans or its allies. Based on declarations issued by Iranian leaders, one of their objectives is to push Americans out of Iraq. Of course, withdrawing from Iraq because Iran demands it would be a total surrender. However, attacks like the one that took place on January 7 against two American bases in Iraq are likely to continue. Likewise, the possibility that Iran may target embassies or other civilian targets anywhere in the world is real. The Ayatollah Khamenei already announced that Iran will continue its attacks against the United States.
One possibility among others is that Iran may choose Europe or Latin America as a place to commit a terrorist attack as they did in the early 1990’s in Argentina, particularly given Iran’s strong presence in the region, which we have described elsewhere.
There are more dangers in the current situation with Iran. The deal that was signed between the U.S and five UN security council members plus Germany (also known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) was indeed very defective as its nuclear restrictions on Iran were limited and as it failed to address Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. However, it had one and only advantage: it kept Iran under nuclear control even if it was for a limited amount of time. Since July 2019, Iran began to enrich uranium above the level permitted by the JCPOA, increased the heavy water inventory, began operating advanced centrifuges, and renewed uranium enrichment at the Fordow plant.
Iran now has announced it would enrich uranium unlimitedly. This would leave Iran unchecked like a mad dog. Trump has not signed a deal with Iran and thus the danger of an imminent nuclear Iran is back on the table. This is a serious challenge. It is highly unlikely that Iran would go back to the negotiating table. For them, the JCPOA was the ultimate deal and their honor would not allow them to sign a new agreement whose terms would be less favorable to Iran than it is now. According to Israeli intelligence, Iran could develop a nuclear bomb in one year.
Therefore, the challenge of a nuclear Iran is still a threat whose solution is highly uncertain.
Luis Fleischman is a professor of Sociology at Palm Beach State College, the co-founder of the think-tank the Palm Beach Center for Democracy and Policy Research and an advisor on Latin America for the Center for Security Policy. He is also the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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