January 07, 2020

How will Iran respond to Soleimani’s killing — and where will the escalation end?

By Elisa Catalano Ewers and Ariane Tabatabai

After the U.S. drone strike last week that killed powerful Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, many thoughtful analyses have discussed what might come next. Response is inevitable, but the “severe revenge” promised by the Iranian regime is likely to be served up cold. Much of the analysis thus far expects the regime to retaliate as it normally does, relying on methods that do not leave fingerprints. But the significance of targeting Soleimani, who led the elite Quds Force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, may cause Iran to deviate from its traditional playbook. In weighing the costs and benefits of its decision to act, the United States should have prepared to deal with such contingencies.

Iran will calibrate meaningful redress with its desire to not provoke a hot war with the United States. But Tehran also will seek to consolidate its gains and move the regional status quo in its favor after the crisis moment passes. It already is positioning to hit several objectives: raising the cost of U.S. policy (in Iraq and on the nuclear file) without drawing international ire onto itself.

That means the United States should be prepared for the eventuality that Iran’s response may not be what we expect.

Read the full article in The Washington Post.

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