Regardless of one’s feeling about former president Trump, the question of ‘what happens next with Iran?’ is one that must be both asked and contemplated.
At the very least, the killing of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020 was curious. While the official story from US officials was that the drone strike was to prevent an imminent attack, it was later clarified with another statement in which they said that it was in response to an escalating series of attacks, had a purpose of deter Iraning from supporting or conducting further attacks, and put an end to Iran’s strategic escalation of attacks.
First, I think it is important to remember that the attack on General Soleimani, who was the inspiration for General Rahim Shirazi in my novel Surviving the Lion’s Den, cannot legally be called an assassination. Assassinations have been prohibited since President Gerald Ford signed Executive Order 12333, which has been signed by every president since Jimmy Carter. The term assassination also implies that it was a state sponsored, deliberate, and specifically targeted attack for the purpose of national security. Personally, I don’t believe that it was a targeted attack on the man himself. More than likely, the US intelligence services had their eyes on another insurgent to whom they had specific knowledge. Soleimani just happened to be in the car. If you believe this, you can decide for yourself whether his death was a fortunate accident or not. However, the facts are that he was in the car with a known bad guy with a terrorist agenda, which means that Soleimani himself was up to no good. What’s the old saying? “When you lay down with dogs, you’re going to catch some fleas.” This time, Soleimani’s activities caught up with him. Every sovereign state has a right to defend itself, especially before an attack happens. This being the case, given Soleimani’s activities and track record for terrorist related activities, I would characterize the drone strike an act of national defense regardless of whether it was luck or not.
Soleimani’s death via the drone strike also presented the Trump administration with an opportunity. Rather than have it result in international outrage, it allowed the administration to continue its hardline rhetoric against Iran. Trump had already pulled out of the 2015 nuclear framework deal with Iran that was put into place near the end of the Obama administration and put further economic sanctions into place against the Islamic Republic. While the specifics of the drone strike are known only to government officials, the facts of the matter are that Iran’s engagement against the United States took a major step backward. Was Iran they still planning or developing covert action against the US? Probably. But, until that event, Iran had gradually become bolder in showing off its muscles in public than it had in the Bush 43 administration. Now, whether it was deliberate or incidental, the drone strike against Soleimani caused the Ayatollah government to take a step backward in their approach to the US.
The new Biden administration also raises questions with regards to Iran. President Biden has already indicated that he intends to restore the 2015 agreement with Iran that Trump had nullified. New Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already gone on record saying that if the Islamic Republic of Iran continued to not abide by the Joint Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action (JCPOA, ie the 2015 agreement), they could have enough material to develop a nuclear bomb within a matter of weeks. If true, this puts Israel in a tough position. The Jewish state has long stood their ground on preventing Iran from reaching capabilities. While the protection that the Trump administration provided Israel has not exactly disintegrated, I think is it fair to say that the US-Israel relations are not on as strong a ground with the incoming Biden administration. If Biden continues with his plans to restore the 2015 agreement, Israel’s actions will be closely monitored 2021.
Then, there’s Trump himself. Will Iran take action to eliminate him as a private citizen? Unfortunately, I think there’s a strong chance of it. Whether you like Trump or hate him, the assassination of any former president is not an act that can stand. But, if I were on Trump’s Secret Service detail, I would want to keep the lines of communication with the intelligence agencies open. Iran may not be bold enough to go after him publicly, but I think that they will certainly try to do so covertly. Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain, the undeclared war between Iran and the United States not only rages on but has the potential to pick up in a major way in the coming months.