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The latest on this critical moment as threats and counter-threats escalate between the U.S. and Iran.
Liz Sly, Washington Post Beirut bureau chief, covering Lebanon, Syria and the wider region. (@LizSly)
Hussein Banai, professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. Author of "Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988." (@HussBanai)
From The Reading List
Washington Post: "Iran has vowed revenge against the U.S. But it seems to be in no hurry." — "As President Trump has been ramping up sanctions and threats against Iran over the past eight months, Tehran has been operating on the assumption that he would not dare risk an outright war, especially with an election approaching.
"The drone strike that ended the life of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the strategy’s architect and chief enforcer, blew up that calculation, creating a stunning new dilemma for Iran’s leaders as they look for ways to retaliate — without the benefit of their master strategist.
"That Iran will retaliate is not in question, analysts say. Not to do so would be a sign of weakness that could jeopardize the enormous influence Iran has gained in the region over the past four decades.
"The targeted killing of Soleimani eroded the deterrent that Iran believed it had established with a campaign of attacks against shipping in the Persian Gulf and rocket strikes on bases in Iraq, said Kamel Wazne, a Beirut-based political analyst. From Iran’s point of view it is now imperative to restore that, he said."
Washington Post: "How the Soleimani assassination could pave the way for a new deal with Iran" — "Was the targeted assassination of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, gutsy or reckless? That depends on how this chapter of America’s 41-year contest of wills with the Islamic Republic of Iran ends. But it won’t necessarily be the disaster some critics have heralded. It could, in the end, prove providential.
"If the killing of Tehran’s uber-terrorist unleashes global asymmetric war, with Iran’s proxies and sleeper agents hitting unsuspecting Americans at soft targets — airports, train stations, malls, hospitals, schools, etc. — around the world, then President Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani will be viewed as one of the most senseless, shortsighted and irresponsible decisions ever made by an American president.
"If executing the shadowy spymaster ultimately responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members in Iraq over the past two decades triggers a decision by Iran’s supreme leader to unleash Hezbollah’s formidable arsenal of rockets and missiles against Israeli cities and towns, or to launch an armada of mini-drones to destroy oil and gas facilities in Arab states up and down the Persian Gulf — acts of vengeance that would probably lead to full-scale regional war — then the hit on Soleimani will go down as one of the most thoughtless and foolishly provocative decisions ever made by an American president."
The New Yorker: "Where Will U.S.-Iran Tensions Play Out? An Interview with Iraq’s President" — "The U.S. assassination of Qassem Suleimani, the mastermind of Tehran’s foreign military operations, in Baghdad last week, suddenly made Iraq the front line in tensions between the United States and Iran. Barham Salih, a British-educated Kurd who spent years representing his party in Washington, was elected President of Iraq in 2018. Salih has been increasingly concerned about Iraq’s vulnerability since the Trump Administration blamed Iran for an air strike that damaged more than a dozen strategic oil installations in Saudi Arabia, in September. I’ve known Salih for more than a quarter century, including when he was in Washington and later when he became the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. We began a conversation in September, at the U.N. General Assembly, about the danger that Iraq will become a war zone—again—only this time between the United States and Iran. I checked in with him again on Sunday to update our conversation.
"Iraq has struggled to balance ties with both Washington and Tehran since the U.S. invasion, in 2003. 'The United States is our ally. Iran is our neighbor,' Salih told me. The U.S. attack on Suleimani—which was carried out without informing the government in Baghdad—challenged Iraqi sovereignty and triggered unprecedented political fury at the United States within the country. On Sunday, the parliament of Iraq voted to require the government to “end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil and prevent the use of Iraqi airspace, soil and water for any reason” by foreign troops. The United States has more than five thousand troops in Iraq; it leads a multinational coalition that is still fighting isis and training the Iraqi military. The vote in the parliament, which has three hundred and twenty-eight seats, was 170–0. It was carried largely by Shiite lawmakers; many Sunnis and Kurds did not vote. The measure will not go into force until signed by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, but Mahdi drafted its language. And, in any case, he has been only a caretaker of the government since he resigned, in November, after weeks of protests.
"Over the weekend, Iran vowed major retaliation for Suleimani’s death, which led the United States to suspend diplomatic and military operations in Iraq. On Sunday, the U.S.-led coalition announced that it was at least temporarily halting operations against isis. The U.S. Embassy also suspended consular operations. The State Department urged all Americans to leave Iraq."
This program aired on January 7, 2020.
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