2020 began with the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil, marking the beginning of new tensions between the United States (US) and Iran. Notwithstanding Covid-19, Iran still wishes to avenge the death of their top official, threatening the US to take action. Soleimani, with 7 of his men, was killed by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020, accused of masterminding an attack on US soil and of previous terrorist-related efforts. Just a few days later, as tensions intensified between the two countries, Iran stroke back by attacking several military bases hosting US military. After one year, the situation did not get any better, in fact, both Iran and the US nurture resentment. What could change?
The General had been in charge of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps since 1998, becoming the leader of the Iranian forces and left-hand man of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He is known for his brutal actions in 2006 against Israel during the 33-day war, for safeguarding Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Seyed Nasrallah, and for his numerous operations against Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, all of which dismantled US commanded ventures. Soleimani is also considered the one who helped the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine re-structure and militarize, for heading the Gaza War in 2008-2009, and for contracting weapons for different Islamic groups, as Hamas and Hezbollah. For these reasons, Soleimani entered the US’s target list as a sponsor of terrorism and fierce executor, factors which motivated his killing in 2020. Moreover, as emphasized by the Wall Street Journal, in 2019 the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had been labeled a terrorist organization, responsible for the killing of +600 US soldiers during the Iraq War, and for supplying weapons to jihadists. All of these elements combined, brought the US military to strike and kill the General, notwithstanding the consequences of this occurring on Iraqi soil. Plus, the attack on Soleimani happened after days of Iranian threats towards the US, intensified relations, and protests in Iraq in front of the US Embassy.
One Year Later
One year after the killing of Qassem Soleimani, relations between the US and Iran have not improved. Indeed, on the 3rd of January 2021, protests arose in Iraq demanding justice for the killing and revenge against the US. The outbreak of Covid-19 has most certainly played a role in this delayed request of avenge, but compared to 2020, 2021 might probably break all relations between the two countries if actions are not taken. Moreover, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, recently declared that those who killed Soleimani “are not safe on earth” while praising the end of Trumpism and the fact that “the life of this criminal [Trump] will end soon”. However, there is a small possibility that the new Presidency might bring a decrease in tensions. In fact, Rouhani added that “the period after Trump will bring a better condition for regional and global stability”, hinting he might be willing to compromise with the President-elect Joe Biden.
Nonetheless, President Trump still seats as leader of the US for the next two weeks, and protests in Baghdad and Teheran do not seem to ease. On the one-year anniversary, which occurred two days ago, Tahrir Square in Baghdad was pictured with men, women, and children, dressed in black mourning the death of their ‘martyrs’ and yelling against the ‘big Satan’ – considered to be the United States. These protests marked the beginning of new threats from Iran, underlined above, and brought Iran to increase its deposits of uranium, warning it will soon buy more and reach the international limit of 20%.
What Could Change
A factor the played a strong role in the dismantlement of relations between Iran and the United States, was the former’s decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Deal. However, tensions could decrease with Joe Biden, who has openly declared multiple times he is willing to renegotiate the terms of the Deal and secure the US’s position in it. This could ease the tensions between the two and sign a new beginning for the Middle East, who has suffered from strong instabilities in the past four years. However, Iran has yet to declare its position in regard to the Deal and has not announced a statement on the matter. Although Biden played a major role in the creation of the Deal foresee, the Obama Administration was not able to ease the tensions between the two on a global basis. This considered, all scenarios are possible and the last days of the Trump Presidency could mark the future of US-Iran relations, which now stand on broken glass – as both Iran and Hezbollah are seeking revenge.