Iran’s missile strikes aim to draw a line under Suleimani killing

The US should take seriously Tehran’s efforts to put an end to the cycle of violence

 Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow in December. File photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow in December. File photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

 

Iran’s ballistic missile strikes on two Iraqi bases hosting US and Nato troops are intended to convey messages to adversaries, Iraq, and allies and to draw a line under the assassination of Iran’s charismatic elite force commander Qassem Suleimani by the US.

Even the US confirms that these messages involved no bloodshed at the targeted bases.

As the operation was planned by Iran’s military council in consultation with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s determination to put an end to this cycle of violence should be taken seriously by outside powers. Khamenei has reiterated Iran’s long-term goal of expelling the US from the region.

Tehran has warned the US and the international community that Iran can strike US troops and interests in the region and is prepared to risk retaliation. This amounts to a qualitative escalation in the confrontation between the US and Iran, which is now being conducted by principals rather than surrogates.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has also called on Europe to exert pressure on US president Donald Trump to end his punitive policy of “maximum pressure” through the imposition of sanctions, which have crippled Iran’s economy and impoverished its citizenry.

By targeting the al-Asad and Irbil bases – which have hosted US and Nato forces involved in the campaign against the Islamic State terror group – the Iranians have prompted European militaries to relocate troops and halt operations to mop up fugitive jihadis in Iraq and Syria.

This increases pressure on Washington not to retaliate, as such a move would prolong the suspension of anti-Islamic State operations.

And, by demonstrating the al-Asad base is not safe, Tehran has sent personal messages to Trump and hawkish vice-president Mike Pence, whose visits to Iraq skipped Baghdad and were confined to al-Asad for security reasons.

Unifying figure

Tehran has told millions of Iranians mourning the death of Suleimani that he has been avenged on the day of his burial in his hometown of Kerman. For many, Suleimani was the sole regime figure worthy of respect because he was not tainted by corruption and mismanagement.

His assassination has, for the time being, united Iranians who had grown increasingly critical and hostile toward the cleric-dominated regime due to its failure to deliver goods, services and jobs and to resolve the conflict with the US.

By mounting a measured response to Suleimani’s killing, the authorities demonstrated they want to avoid risky escalation. Older Iranians do not want a return to the dangers and deprivation they suffered during the 1980-88 war with Iraq and earlier rounds of sanctions.

Tehran has demanded Baghdad end the US military presence in Iraq. The Iranians made the strategic and political decision to target al-Asad base in Anbar, a Sunni province, and the Irbil base in the Kurdish region. As legislators from these areas were absent from Iraq’s parliament when the Shia majority adopted a resolution calling for foreign forces to leave Iraq, the strikes were meant to warn absentees to form a united front with Shia counterparts.

Finally, by responding promptly to Suleimani’s assassination, Iran told proxies and backers they should not mount unauthorised strikes against the US, which could elicit devastating US strikes on Iran itself. Iraq’s Shia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia has, however, said that while Iran has given its response to Suleimani’s killing, Iraqis must avenge the death of Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was also killed in the US drone attack on Suleimani.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.