How Trump's order of killing Soleimani has backfired

January 09, 2020 16:01
Iranian mourners gather for the burial of slain top general Qasem Soleimani in his hometown Kerman on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Last week, US President Donald Trump ordered a sudden and unexpected drone attack that killed Qasem Soleimani, leader of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and considered the second most powerful man in Iran.

The move was seen as a bid to put Tehran in its place and flex Washington's diplomatic muscle.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, the surprise tactic seems to have backfired, as it has only served to stiffen Iran's defiance rather than crush its morale.

In retaliation, Iran launched a massive missile attack against at least two US military bases in Iraq early on Wednesday local time. However, there were no reports of American casualties.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, said the strikes “concluded” Tehran’s response to the killing of Soleimani.

“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Undoubtedly, Iran hasn’t been intimidated by the assassination of Soleimani at all.

And what is more, in our opinion, Tehran might actually be snickering and feeling thankful that Trump has ordered the reckless killing of Soleimani because by doing so, he may have actually helped Iran resolve three difficult issues in one go.

First, the assassination of Soleimani has provided Tehran with a perfect and righteous excuse for dropping out of a nuclear deal, which was already hanging by a thread after Washington’s withdrawal.

Second, the death of Soleimani has helped unite the Iranians against US aggression. Just two months ago, the country was gripped by nationwide protests against a gas price hike enforced by the Tehran government.

Now, the killing of Soleimani by the “evil American imperialists” has helped Tehran divert domestic attention from the country’s economic hardship.

Last but not least, Soleimani’s death has provided Iran with further justifications for interfering in the internal affairs of the neighboring Iraq and step up efforts at sponsoring the pro-Tehran Shia Muslims in the country.

If anything, Trump’s order of killing Soleimani has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Tehran.

This is an updated version of an article that appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 8. The print deadline of the article came before Iran's missile attacks on US-led forces in Iraq.

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal