• Iran on 8th January 2020, launched ballistic missile attacks at American troops in two military bases in Iraq – Five days after Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Force chief, was killed in a U.S. air strike outside Baghdad airport,.

Statements:

  • Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has said that the attacks on the Erbil and Al-Asad bases were a retaliation for the killing of the General, who was one of the top military leaders of the country and the main architect of Iran’s foreign security and intelligence operations.
  • Initial reports suggest that there are no American casualties, though damage and military assessments are still under way.

Analysis

  • Whether there were American casualties or not, this is a pivotal moment in the U.S.-Iran tensions as this is the first time Iran is launching a direct attack at the U.S. troops and owning it up.
  • Practically, these are acts of war, though there’s no formal war declaration. First, the U.S. took out an Iranian military leader in a third country and now Iran has struck U.S. troops.
  • Iran has launched a calculated, limited strike that doesn’t cause much damage to the Americans but yet makes good on its pledge for revenge.
  • It is an escalating step, but not yet an all-out war.

Possible Outcomes:

If there are no American casualties, a red line drawn by President Trump — he could shrug the Iranian response off and choose not to retaliate, which could be a de-escalating step.

But there are several scenarios that could lead the conflict to an all-out war.

  • First, if Mr. Trump orders air strikes inside Iran, it would trigger further military response from Iran and the conflict will immediately spiral out of control.
  • Second, even if Mr. Trump steps back from further retaliation, Iran could target U.S. troops inside Iraq through its proxies such as the Badr Brigade and Kataib Hezbollah. That will drag the U.S. into a deeper conflict.
  • Third, the Shia militias operate with relative autonomy. Tehran may not be micromanaging them. Infuriated by the loss of their commander, they could act without authorisation from Tehran against U.S. troops in Iraq, which could trigger a harsher response from the U.S. against Iran, dragging both countries into war.
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