OPINION: Soleimani’s death will only bring more conflict

Ricky Barker, Columnist

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To say that conflicts in the Middle East have been tense in the last few weeks is an understatement. The U.S. was on the brink of a major conflict with Iran. In the last week, over 3,000 American troops were deployed to the Middle East. Soldiers left their families and homes over the growing struggle between the United States and Iran. A struggle that reached its breaking point because of President Donald Trump’s actions — the swift and sudden assassination of well-known Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. 

The rest of the world knew Soleimani as a ruthless and violent militant, designated a terrorist by former President Barack Obama. Soleimani is responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. service members during his leadership of the Quds Forces, a behind-the-scenes warfare and intelligence agency, supplying guns and materials to insurgent groups in Iraq who often took up arms against American forces. However, to many Iranians, he was a well-respected and beloved leader. Days after his death, Tehran was filled with countless black veiled mourners for a huge funeral. People carried signs emblazoned with the images of the general and cries for revenge rang from the crowd.

Tensions have slowly built over several months, economic sanctions and geopolitical tussles have existed since the Trump administration’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal. However, it’s worsened over the last three weeks, starting with the death of an American contractor. On December 27, a mysterious missile struck a U.S. military base in northern Iraq, which killed one U.S. civilian and wounded several service members. No group claimed responsibility; however, the United States quickly responded. Two days later, F15 Jets hit five facilities of the Iran backed military group Kata’ib Hizbollah, killing 25 fighters. This caused raucous protests at the U.S. Embassy, where an Iran paramilitary group threw rocks and broke windows. 

Soleimani was then assassinated by an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport a few days later. This pushed what was an already strained relationship to the verge of breaking. The new Iranian commander, Esmail Ghanni, quickly vowed swift and harsh vengeance for what happened and Tehran started enriching uranium, breaking the nuclear deal arrangement.

The beginning of the Iranian revenge came on Jan. 7, as Iran fired 12 ballistic homing at two U.S. military bases in Iraq. There were no casualties. However, that was a massive move for another sovereign nation to attack U.S. personnel. Iran claims that they were aiming away from people; however, if any of the missiles did manage to kill U.S. civilians or forces, that would have been serious. It caused the U.S. to increase its forces in the Middle East, deploying more soldiers during an administration that promised to bring them home and stop the “endless wars” in the Middle East.

Yet, most certainly the Trump administration pushed them to that point. Iran has been metaphorically poking the U.S. for a while now, egging the U.S. on. They likely expected retaliation. However, the move the U.S. made was foolish and rash. Solemani was a warmonger, and the world is better without him, but taking such an extreme act during a time like this is impulsive and fails to see the greater ripples. Three thousand more American troops are now in the Middle East because of this, and it changed nothing.

The Quds Forces are not any weaker now than they were before, as the replacement leader came the day after Soleimani died. This is not cutting off the head of the snake, it is creating a more angry and vengeful serpent. Iran has restarted its uranium enrichment  and distrusts the U.S. more than ever. The U.S. has committed an act that, diplomatically, will be hard to come back from.

The claim might be made that killing Soleimani brings justice to hundreds of Americans he’s killed, yet what about the justice for the Americans who left their families to serve because of this administration’s actions? For now, Iran appears to be stepping back from escalation. They know they can’t win a full-frontal fight with the U.S. Only time will tell how long that will last, for Esmail’s promise of revenge still hangs over these countries, like a shadow waiting for its time to strike.