Yesterday, the American military targeted and killed Quassem Suleimani, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force. Donald Trump has been itching for a fight with Iran. Now he'll get one. The only question is how far will the repercussions go? Daniel Byman writes:
Attacks on US forces and facilities in Iraq are particularly likely. Tehran has spent over 15 years building up extensive networks among militia groups and politicians in Iraq. Earlier this week, before Suleimani’s death, Iran was able to rapidly mobilize local proxies to violently demonstrate at the US Embassy in Baghdad, creating a grave security risk to personnel there, even as Tehran’s local allies avoided killing more Americans. Now the gloves are likely to come off.
In the strike that killed Suleimani, the United States also reportedly took out the head of the pro-Iran militia Kataib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and several other senior pro-Iran figures in Iraq. Kataib Hezbollah was responsible for numerous attacks on US and Iraqi forces, often at Iran’s behest. This, too, will not go unpunished: In addition to wanting to please Iran, pro-Iran militias in Iraq will be angered by al-Muhandis’s death and the arrests of their leaders and eager to avenge them.
The blowback will be felt in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria:
US military forces in Afghanistan and Syria are also at risk, though both are already well defended due to threats from ISIS, the Taliban, and other dangerous groups. The IRGC and its proxies may also strike at official US embassies and other government-related targets. In 1983, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah blew up the US Embassy in Beirut as well as the Marine barracks there, killing 220 Marines, and dozens of other Americans. Civilians too may be in the crosshairs. Some of Iran’s proxies lack the skill to strike at well-defended official targets, so Tehran may also seek to send a broader message in order to intimidate the United States.
The trouble, of course, is that Donald Trump doesn't think things through -- if he thinks at all:
Deliberative thinking is not a strong suit of the Trump administration, and it is easy to focus on the immediate gratification that comes from killing an archenemy responsible for many American and allied deaths than thinking through the long-term implications of the strike.
And Trump has alienated the allies he needs now:
What the United States most needs is allies. They are necessary to deter Iran, support further military operations against it if deterrence fails, help guard US facilities, and otherwise share the burden. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has spurned many traditional allies, thumbing its nose at NATO, Australia, and others.
In the Middle East, the administration refused to retaliate after Iran attacked a Saudi oil facility, a traditional red line, sending a message that the Kingdom was on its own for its security. It has also stood by as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE have worked at cross-purposes in countries like Syria and Libya, rather than trying to create a common position that would increase US influence and bargaining power in conflict with Iran. It is unclear if allies will now rally to Washington’s banner, and even if they do they may not be eager to stand by the United States.
Trump is mentally ill and he's not very bright. He has -- again -- made the world a much more dangerous place.