In response to the missile strike, Iran has retaliated both militarily and politically.
On Friday, Jan. 3, President Trump authorized a drone strike that killed Major Qassim Suleimani, a commander in the Iranian military, as well as multiple officials in the Iraqi Shiite militias supported by Tehran. The strike came during Suleimani’s visit to Iraq and was the catalyst for what has been a tense month for relations between the United States and Iran.
Suleimani commanded the special operations Quds forces, and according to many experts he amounted to the second highest ranking official in the country after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei called for three days of mourning and a “forceful revenge” against those who killed Suleimani in the hours following reports of the strike.
That retaliation came in the form of both a cyber attack on a U.S. government website and missile strikes at two Iraqi military bases that are currently shared with the United States. There were no reported casualties in the aftermath of those strikes, but Iranian officials promised larger strikes if the United States attempted to retaliate.
The Trump administration claimed that Suleimani was planning attacks on numerous U.S. officials in the region, and that the attack was conducted to protect both American lives and the peace between the two countries. However in the weeks since, President Trump has gone on to tweet that “it doesn’t really matter” and that Suleimani’s “horrible past” justified his assassination.
The strike came after Pro-Iranian militia forces and a large crowd stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad earlier in the week, but the killing of Suleimani also marks an escalation in tensions between the United States and Iran since Trump took office. In the spring of 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement with Iran that allowed the U.S. to maintain surveillance on the amount of enriched Uranium that Iran was able to produce. This move was criticized by many in the Democratic Party and drew harsh condemnation from Ayatollah Khamenei.
The withdrawal, praised by many of Trump’s more hawkish advisors, seems to have been the moment any good faith between the two nations began to deteriorate. In a political response to the January strike, Iran has now also withdrawn from the nuclear agreement, despite work by multiple EU countries to continue to play the role envisioned for the U.S. when the program was created.
Iraq’s parliament also took action after the strike by voting to stop allowing American troops to remain stationed in the country, as fears of a U.S.-Iran proxy-war loom in the aftermath of Suleimani’s killing. This move could potentially end an almost twenty year conflict for the United States, but with U.S.-Iran tensions still high it is unclear whether the Trump administration will choose to comply with the Iraqi government or follow through with Trump’s assurance that he wants peace.