Jan. 3 marked the beginning of tensions between the United States and Iran reaching a ‘boiling point’ after a US drone killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq. Shortly thereafter, on Jan. 8 Iran retaliated with missile strikes against US bases in Iraq which could have been the start of war between the two countries.
“To me, the closest thing that I can imagine, you know for what Soleimani’s death would mean to me in the United States, [is] if after the Civil War some country had assassinated President Grant. The hero Union general who had won the Civil War, like he was this revered, feared figure in America, right. So that is kind of how Soleimani was viewed in Iran, as the guy who defeated ISIS and this person who was one of their hero generals and it’s not normal,” social studies teacher Justin Felux said.
Soleimani has had a past record of killing American servicemen and servicewomen. He has been at the helm of the Quds Forces, which is a secretive Iranian military unit that performs foreign operations for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“So Qasem Soleimani was the head of the Iranian Quds Force–I guess the closest thing you could compare it to in the United States is like the CIA. So what he did was he went to other countries in the Middle East and he made relationships with Shia militia groups and fighting forces,” Felux said. “And initially in Lebanon, Hezbollah is the famous Shia fighting force in Lebanon, he made alliances with the Houthis which is a Shia fighting force in Yemen. He made alliances with many different Shia militia groups in Iraq.”
The predator-drone strike happened after an attack on American forces in the Middle East on Dec. 27 and Dec. 31. The attack on Dec. 27, which was led by the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, resulted in the death of an American contractor and multiple Iraqi and American servicemen being injured.
On Dec. 31, Iraqui supporters of Kataib Hezbollah stormed the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. This attack on the embassy came as a result of retaliatory airstrikes on Dec. 29 because of the attack on American forces on Dec. 27. Militia members stormed the
Iran promised retaliatory military strikes against the United States following the death of Soleimani. This could have been anything from using terrorist cells and Shia militia cells in the Middle East to attack Americans to attacking the United States military that is located in the Middle East with full military force.
“You know, usually when countries are in conflict with each other, and in this case the US and Iran were not even directly in conflict with each other it was more of like, you know, ‘We backed these guys and they backed other guys,’ and it was kind of a proxy conflict than a direct conflict,” Felux said. “But Trump really escalated the tensions with Iran by not only directly attacking an Iranian soldier but you know, a very high ranking [one]. It would be like if Iran assassinated our Vice President or our Secretary of State or something like that. It was a major step-up in you know the terms of confrontation with Iran. So that’s why it was such a big deal.”
Their promised retaliatory strikes resulted in a ballistic missile strike of at least 10 rockets against two US bases in Iraq on wednesday, Jan. 8. The attack was against Ain al-Assad Air Base, targeting the American side of the military compound. The attack resulted in no injuries or casualties, only damage to the military base itself.
“What it seems like happened is that Iran did these missile strikes on the US bases in Iraq and it was kind of…and then they said they were standing down,” Felux said. “So the kind of got their symbolic revenge for the killing of Soleimani, it doesn’t seem at this point that anyone died in those strikes. It seems maybe even that Iran warned ahead of time where they were going to shoot the missiles so that nobody would die but uh new information could come out that could say that is not true. “
This attack could have resulted in war between the two countries which have been at odds with each other for decades. However in the aftermath of the attack, both the US and Iran began to stand down and tensions began to drop.
A possible war in the Middle East could have resulted in increased activity of military troops, such as more deployments and more troops being killed in action (KIA). The US has already been in this part of the world since the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and this year marks 18 years that the United States has been in this area as part of the International ‘War on Terror.’
The death of Soleimani marked a new chapter in the ever-escalating conflict in the Middle East, possibly forcing the US to stay in this area of the world indefinitely at this point.
“There hasn’t been much polling done on it but it seems to me from what polling has been done is that Americans don’t want a war with Iran. We are kind of war-weary after you know being in Afghanistan, the longest war we have ever been in and then Iraq on top of that and now these sort of semi-engagements we have in a bunch of other countries like Syria and Somalia,” Felux said. “So I think that people are just kind of war-weary and Iran is a big country with a major modern military and eighty million people, a war with Iran is no small thing, it would be disastrous so I think hopefully cooler heads will prevail and we don’t end up in a full-on conflict.”