January 8, 2020
Jacob D. Nemit
Photo courtesy of Shealah Craighead
Following the Kata’ib Hezbollah attack on the American-allied airbase in Iraq that resulted in the death of an American civilian contractor, the United States has attacked three Iranian-backed facilities in Iraq and two in Syria. “These locations,” stated Pentagon spokesperson, Jonathan Hoffman, “included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations” that Kata’ib Hezbollah uses against the U.S. and U.S.-allied forces.
Angered by the American airstrikes, protestors stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad chanting, “Death to America.” The protestors preceded to start fires along the walls of the compound but were unable to penetrate the main embassy buildings. Many of the protestors retreated when the U.S. Embassy demanded that they withdraw. The protestors have camped out around the embassy since the attack and stated that they would remain there “until American troops leave Iraq and [when]the embassy is closed.” In response to the embassy attack, President Trump tweeted “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”
President Trump remained true to his word and ordered an airstrike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the general for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, on January 3rd. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, warned the United States that a “hard revenge awaits criminals,” and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the strike an “act of international terrorism.” “Iranian MPs chanted ‘Death to America,’ the Daily Mail reported, “after they passed a bill…designating all U.S. forces [as]’terrorists’ over the killing of Qassem Soleimani.”
A new survey conducted by HuffPost-YouGov found that nearly half of registered voters approve of President Trump’s decision to kill Gen. Soleimani. Among the registered voters polled, 47 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove of the airstrikes. The U.S. State Department predicts that Soleimani was responsible for 17 percent of American personnel deaths during the Iraq War. However, some disapprove of the airstrike because of its legality. Both the Iranian president and Iraq’s prime minister have categorized President Trump’s order as an “assassination”, which has been illegal in the United States since 1981. The United States, in turn, has not classified the killing of Gen. Soleimani as an assassination.
The Iranians retaliated on Tuesday evening when they fired rockets on two Iraqi military bases where American troops were stationed. Iran has declared their attack a success by claiming they had killed dozens. However, American officials have not reported any deaths on either of the military bases. In response, President Trump enacted more “powerful sanctions” that will cripple the already struggling economy of Iran.
In addition to economic sanctions, President Trump stated, “Iran appears to be standing down” and that the United States is “ready to embrace peace.” However, this is not likely to be the end of the conflict between the United States and Iran. Iran is seeking to win international legitimacy, in general. Both countries have used arsenals to achieve this task and have used aggressive rhetoric to intimidate on both sides. Trump and the U.S. are looking to re-legitimize its military authority in the Middle East, which many believe had been squandered under the Obama administration.