Is War With Iran Inevitable After Soleimani's Assassination? - Rolling Stone
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So…Are We Going to War With Iran Now?

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has vowed “harsh retaliation” after the Trump-ordered assassination of military commander Qasem Soleimani

TEHRAN, IRAN - SEPTEMBER 18 : Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani (C) attends Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's (not seen) meeting with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran on September 18, 2016. (Photo by Pool / Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in 2016. He was assassinated by a U.S. drone strike on Friday morning.

Pool / Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Early Friday morning in Iraq, the United States assassinated high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence official Qasem Soleimani. He was killed in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport, along with several officials from Iran-backed militias operating in Iraq. The attack represents the most aggressive action yet in an increasingly tense standoff between the U.S. and Iran, and one that many believe could lead to war between the two nations.

The Pentagon confirmed the news of Soleimani’s assassination late Thursday night in the U.S., noting that the action was carried out “at the direction” of President Trump, while misidentifying the organization Soleimani led. The Pentagon did not detail the intelligence that led to Soleimani’s death, and justifications from the administration have been inconsistent.

It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of Soleimani’s assassination. The commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, he was the longtime architect of the nation’s military and intelligence operations. As such, he was one of Iran’s most powerful men, and a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has made his disdain for Trump’s strong-arm tactics clear. Soleimani was a terrorist, murderer, and one of the world’s most dangerous men, aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and causing the deaths of hundreds of Americans during the Iraq War, according to U.S. officials. But his assassination is tantamount to an act of war against Iran, and it’s unclear — if not unlikely — that the Trump administration, which acted without the input of Congress, has any real plan to deal with the fallout.

Though the Pentagon claimed in its statement that Soleimani was assassinated “to protect U.S. personnel abroad,” the move will almost certainly have the opposite effect. Iran has already said it will respond aggressively — with Supreme Leader Khamenei promising a “harsh retaliation” — and the U.S. State Department has urged citizens in Iraq to leave “immediately.”

“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission,” Khamenei added in a statement calling for three days of mourning, “but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”

Soleimani’s assassination came days after Iran-backed protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, an attack the Pentagon says was orchestrated by Soleimani, and less than a week after a rocket attack against an Iraqi base housing U.S. troops left one American contractor dead. The U.S. blamed the attack on an Iran-backed militia, and responded over the weekend by launching airstrikes against the group. Around 750 U.S. troops were later dispatched to help quell the attack against the embassy in Baghdad.

The recent attacks from both sides represent the latest escalation in a series of provocations that have played out since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear agreement signed by the Obama administration and several other world powers in 2015. Soleimani’s assassination on Friday is, by far, the most significant act of aggression by either side, and could be a tipping point into all-out war with a nation of 80 million boasting formidable military capabilities.

Trump doesn’t appear to understand the gravity of the situation. He responded to the news Thursday night by tweeting a low-resolution image of an American flag, which is now pinned to the top of his Twitter page.

“Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” he added Friday morning, an ostensible reference to the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has long derided. Considering the U.S. is on the brink of war with Iran, which has also resumed its nuclear program, it’s pretty hard to argue either nation is in a better place than it was while the deal was in tact. Following Soleimani’s assassination, the situation now appears unsalvageable.

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