Iran escalates hostilities with US in wake of Soleimani death

Iran has taken steps to respond to a drone strike late last week that killed its effective second in command, General Qassem Soleimani, the Washington Examiner reported.

Militias backed by Iran fired rockets near the American embassy in Baghdad on Sunday in the first step in retaliation for the general’s killing, which the U.S. said was necessary to stop Soleimani from carrying out a massive attack that would potentially have killed significant numbers of Americans.

No one at the embassy was hurt, but one building was damaged when two rockets fell in the highly fortified Green Zone near the embassy. A third rocket fell on a nearby private home and wounded four people, medical personnel said.

Iran fighting back…sort of

The other move Iran has made since Soleimani was killed has been to declare that it will not comply with 2015 nuclear treaty entered into with then-President Barack Obama. On Sunday, Iran announced that it would no longer observe any limits on uranium enrichment, which, if unchecked could lead to its having a nuclear weapon inside of a year.

Donald Trump has backed away from the treaty since becoming president, but the European countries originally involved have been trying to hold Iran to its terms anyway.

Trump has put crippling economic sanctions in place against Iran since abandoning the treaty. He also vowed Monday on Twitter that Iran’s nuclear ambitions will never be allowed to come to fruition, according to The Hill.

It is important to note that Iran’s conduct in recent months, though certainly provocative, had not constituted a true breach of the red line set by Trump, namely, the harm or death of any U.S. citizen or asset. However, it was the killing of an American contractor in Baghdad on Dec. 27  — in an attack linked to Soleimani’s Quds Force — that caused Trump to order the strike that killed the Iranian general.

Clearly, Iran’s leadership wants to create the appearance that it is actively responding to Trump’s strike on Soleimani without actually provoking Trump into initiating additional strikes on Iranian targets. Given Trump’s actions to date, there is clearly reason for Tehran to take seriously his pledge of a swift retaliatory response should escalation continue.

Tensions continue to rise

It seems certain that tensions between the  U.S. and Iran will remain high as long as this standoff continues. Trump knows that the U.S. cannot afford to back down and convey weakness to Iran, or there will be nothing to stand in the way of its nuclearization and the resulting threat to global security.

Iran could gain a lot by finding a way to back down and agreeing to a new nuclear deal, but its leaders are seemingly too prideful and, arguably, too delusional to understand this.

Instead of being characterized by a crippled economy and starving populace that is growing increasingly more intolerant of conditions on the ground, Iran could be a player on the global stage if it would just agree to reasonable limits on its nuclear program that would help keep the world safe. Unfortunately, this looks unlikely — and it remains virtually impossible to predict what Iran will do next.

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