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The killing of Soleimani and miscalculations

Jan 06,2020 - Last updated at Jan 06,2020

Over the past few years, Iran has been operating on the assumption that President Donald Trump would not get involved in a military confrontation in the Middle East, particularly during his election campaign. Therefore, Iranian leaders thought that it would be possible to attack some American targets and get away. In particular, Qassim Suleimani, head of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Quds Force, assumed that he could lead anti-America campaign with impunity.

As it turned out, Iranian leaders miscalculated. President Trump took a decision to take Soleimani himself out. His killing created a different dilemma for Iranians, as they are figuring out a way to retaliate. Most analysts argue that an Iranian retaliation is only a matter of when —  not if. Failure to do so would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, something Iranians will have hard time to accept.

For years, Iranians have boasted their country's deterrent power. The running theme in Iran was that the United States does not have stomach for a military confrontation with Iran. They often talked about what they had in store for the American soldiers in case an all-out war breaks out. And yet, the targeted killing of Soleimani eroded the deterrent power of Iran. All the sudden, the US send a clear message that it would be ready for any military confrontation with Iran. Equally important, President Trump is sure that Iran will not last long in case of war.

In other words, President Trump calls the Iranians' bluff. It is as if the American administration is trying to embarrass Iranians. The question now is whether Iran has an appetite for a full-scale war with the strongest nation on this planet. The estimate is that any future war between the Unite Sates and Iran will leave the latter both outgunned and financially pressed. But on the other hand, it will not be an easy job for the Americans. Many analysts suspect that Iran can inflict heavy losses on the Americans.

Against this backdrop, Iranian leaders have to be both rational and wise. Interestingly enough, Iran has to calibrate its response in such a way that would inflict enough damage on the Americans without an all-out military confrontation. Thus far, eulogies for Soleimani from Iranian politicians have underscored both vengeance and patience. That Iran has a bunch of option is certain. Indeed, Soleimani himself built a network of militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. These militias can be called upon to help Tehran exact a heavy price on the Americans. That is being said, President Trump made it perfectly clear that his country would not sit idly by while Iran retaliate. In a tweet, Trump stressed out that any attack on Americans would mean an American stinging attack on Iran. He even went as far as to say the there is a list of 52 valuable targets that his army would target.

In brief, the last thing that this region needs is another deadly war. While neither Washington nor Tehran seeks an all-out war, still miscalculations and brinkmanship may push both sides closer to war. It is high time for the international community to step in to help both sides deescalate.

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