The death-by-missile of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Friday certainly gave Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei something to think about.
He should think hard. Iran’s response over the coming months to this act of U.S. retribution for numerous acts of Iranian aggression could prove disastrous to the Islamic Republic.
Iran is already reeling from crippling U.S.-instigated economic sanctions, anti-government demonstrations turned deadly and debilitating Israeli military attacks.
Soleimani’s timely and ignoble death should focus the Iranian kingpin’s attention as never before. If it doesn’t—if he attempts serious retaliation—Iran will deserve the further decimation it receives at the hands of the United States and our equally indignant Middle East allies.
Khamenei should already have gotten the message that Iran’s terrorist brand of imperialism is not welcome in the Middle East, especially after some 200 strikes, reportedly by Israel, on Iranian facilities in Syria in recent years and, just last August, on Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Let’s not forget that tiny Israel also broke into a nuclear-weapons warehouse smack in the center of Iran’s capital, Tehran, and removed thousands of pages of evidence of Iran’s cheating on the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Despite this humiliation, the ayatollah possesses supreme arrogance and a misplaced sense of invincibility. Following an attack by Iranian-led Shi’ite militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad last week, Khamenei mocked the Americans, saying, “You can’t do anything.”
Soleimani’s demise a few days later proved his boss’s assessment embarrassingly false.
Nonetheless, Iran has been singularly persistent and successful in its efforts to spread violent jihad throughout the Middle East, led primarily by none other than Qassem Soleimani.
• Hezbollah, supervised by Soleimani, is a poster child for proxy militias, having effectively taken over governance and military operations in its host country on behalf of Iran.
• Houthi rebels in Yemen, also supported by Iran, threaten to take over that country.
• Syria’s President Bashar Assad is inextricably beholden to Iran, since Soleimani helped him quell a long, devastating civil war against Islamic State and other rebel armies.
• In Baghdad, where Soleimani was killed, Iranian surrogates are a major controlling force in Iraq’s government and military forces.
• Leaders of the Palestinian terror group Hamas in Gaza, also beneficiaries of Iranian financial support, are openly mourning Soleimani’s death.
In short, few terrorists have had more American (or Arab) blood on their hands than Soleimani, and few have deserved such an ignominious fate more than he.
In addition to Soleimani directing his armies of foreign puppets in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Gaza, Iran has also launched missile assaults on Saudi Arabia’s key oil refinery, attacked and harassed cargo ships in the Persian Gulf and shot down a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
These recent acts, of course, supplement decades of attacks on U.S. forces by Iranians or militias under their control in which hundreds of Americans were killed in Iraq.
While Soleimani’s loss is a major setback to Iran, among many such lately, the Islamic Republic is still powerful and determined. Its leaders are guided by a religious fervor that is not likely to be much tempered by rational calculations.
In fact, statements coming from Iran’s leadership reflect continued belligerence. Its information minister called President Donald Trump “a terrorist in a suit”—ironic, given Iran’s informal mantle as the greatest state sponsor of global terrorism. A Hezbollah spokesperson called for the targeting of U.S. military assets.
In any case, both the U.S. and Israeli militaries are on high alert, expecting Iranian retaliation at some level over the coming months.
When Iran does seek its revenge against either the United States or Israel, we can be sure that they will respond with devastating hammer-blows, not half measures.
Iran is on the ropes—financially, politically (don’t forget nationwide popular protests in recent months) and militarily. While the country is well armed, there are surely limits to how much more credibility and assets Khamenei and Co. are willing to throw into battle against the United States and Israel—two equally determined and better armed combatants.
If further provoked, both the United States and Israel have every reason and right to act firmly against Iran’s bellicose and imperialistic terror regime. We should support such countermeasures, and the U.S. Congress should support them.
After all, Iran has declared itself our enemy. Its chants of “Death to America!” (often led by Khamenei) make that indisputable.
If Iran attempts to double down with further belligerence in the region, especially against the United States or our other allies, including Israel, there should be no discussion of “proportional” response. Iran must now be set back definitively
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.