January 07, 2020

War with Iran is still less likely than you think

By Michael Horowitz and Elizabeth N. Saunders

In the wake of the U.S. attack that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force, many are concerned yet again about the potential for escalation between the United States and Iran to a general war.

In June, after tensions spiked following attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the United States blamed on Iran, we laid out the case for why the two countries were unlikely to fight a general war. We drew on similar arguments in 2018, when we explained why war between the United States and North Korea was unlikely despite the fears of many analysts at the time.

The killing of Soleimani was different

The U.S. killing of Soleimani, an attack on a high-ranking government official, is different from previous moments of international tension during the Trump administration. Soleimani was an important military officer in a sovereign state, rather than the leader of a stateless terrorist organization, like Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In last summer’s oil tanker and drone-downing episodes, the stakes were lower, and there were elements of deniability or ambiguity that were not feasible in the case of killing Soleimani.

Read the full article in The Washington Post.

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